The Lady Flames protected their No. 1 ranking and captured the SSAC tournament title with an overwhelming 5-1 victory over Faulkner University on Saturday afternoon at the Emory-Folmar Complex. Lee will depart from the SSAC and NAIA after this season.
Coach Matt Yelton will also be leaving with some type of unofficial record. It marked the 11th straight year the women's soccer team has claimed a conference championship. The Lady Flames will take a 17-1-1 record into their final NAIA national tournament.
Lee went right to work in the opening 11 minutes. Ashley Aragona scored on a double assist from Leah Fortune and Christina Bovbjerg. Just over one minute later, the tourney MVP Ode Fulutudilu put the Lady Flames up 2-0 on a nicely played assist from Aragona.
Lee wasn't done. A goal by Charlotte Cantlett gave Yelton's club a commanding 3-0 lead at the half. Fortune picked up her second assist of the contest.
The Eagles tried to come fighting back early in the second half. Cassie Wilson slipped in an unassisted goal at the 48:15 mark. In fact, it took Lee goalie Leah Wilson's only save of the game to keep Faulkner off the board again.
The rally ended quickly when Melin Niedermayer tallied an unassisted goal and put the Lady Flames back up by a comfortable 4-1 margin. The final tally came off the foot of Bovbjerg in the 62nd minute. Fulutudilu carded the assist.
Lee outshot Faulkner by a commanding 28-5. The Lady Flames had 17 shots on goal and Caitlin Sebert had 10 saves in the defeat.
"I'm really proud of how our team performed this weekend," said Yelton, who will now prepare his Lady Flames for the opening round of the NAIA national tournament at the Lee Soccer Field next Saturday. "We knew we would have to play well with the SSAC being so good this year, but I was thrilled with the quality of our play and thought we performed at one of the highest levels that we have all year."
Yelton praised the work of his defense. "We put in another great defensive performance this weekend by really limiting our opponents’ chances. We also did a great job of creating some really quality goal-scoring opportunities. We had some unselfish play that led to several different players getting their name on the scoresheet."
The Lee skipper quickly turned his attention toward a fifth straight national title. "We will see how the national tournament bracket shapes up on Monday, but we know we are only guaranteed one more game, and whoever we draw we will have to be at our best in every game from this point forward."