Lee University’s top-ranked women’s soccer team continued its historic run of success in the NAIA National Championship Tournament with a 5-0 victory over Montreat College in Saturday afternoon's Opening Round match at the Lee Soccer Field.
The No. 1 overall seed and four-time defending national champion Lady Flames, wasted little time in striking first on their way to their 21st straight NAIA tournament victory.
Southern States Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Leah Fortune, booted a shot just inside the near post from the top of the box to give the Lee ladies the early 1-0 advantage at the 12 minute mark.
Freshman Christina Bovbjerg added the second goal a few minutes later at the 16:57 mark. She too scored on a powerful kick from near the top of the box to give the Lady Flames the 2-0 lead going into the half.
"The one area I thought we weren't great at was being clinical with our finishing opportunities — we had a lot of chances in the first half that should have been converted and we didn't get the ball in the back of the net. At half time, we talked about scoring goals and putting the game away and we got a great response with three early goals," commented Coach Matt Yelton.
Lee stormed out of the break scoring three goals in five minutes to put the game firmly out of the Cavaliers reach.
Ashley Aragona scored the first of the three goals just 49 seconds into the second half. Ode Fulutudilu followed at the 47:12 mark as she scooted one past the keeper to make it 4-0.
Finishing things off was Fortune once again. She headed home a shot set up by Bovbjerg and Laura Thacker to complete the scoring for the Lady Flames.
"We talked a great deal this week about this game being the start of the national tournament and getting off to the right start with how we performed. I thought the girls gave a very good effort today and that we played really well from the first whistle," Yelton stated.
Defense, which has been a centerpiece of this year's club, was dominating once again. Lee allowed Montreat just one shot the entire match. The Lady Flames stayed on the attack with 25 shots, 11 of which were on frame.
"We also talked about how this was the end for several players in our squad and how this was the last home game our seniors would ever play and that we wanted to make sure that they left on a good note," added Yelton
One of those seniors, Leah Wilson worked 83 mintues in net to secure win number 18 for the Lady Flames. Elyse Cottrell worked the final 6:44 for Lee. Montreat keeper, Caroline Mellard worked the full 90 minutes registering six saves while allowing the five goals.
With the victory the Lady Flames will move to the NAIA Women's National Championship final site, in Orange Beach, Ala. They will play Nov. 26 at 5 p.m. against 16th seed Northwood (Fla.).
"We are excited to be moving on to Orange Beach and having the opportunity to play a very good Northwood team. We played them earlier season, but the scoreline in no way indicates the quality of their team and we will have to put in a very good performance if we want to win and advance," Yelton concluded.