ORANGE BEACH, Ala. — Juniors Ashley Aragona and Leah Fortune produced late first-half goals and the Lee defense contributed its 14th shutout of the season in allowing the Lady Flames to pass their first test in the 2012 NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship.
The Lady Flames (19-1-1) had to battle for 90 minutes to post the 2-0 victory over the Northwood University (West Palm Beach, Fla.) Seahawks (14-5-1). They will now watch Tuesday’s contest between Cumberland University and Concordia University (Ore.) to see who Wednesday’s 5 p.m. EST opponent will be.
It marked the 22nd straight win in national tournament competition for the Lady Flames. They now stand at a remarkable 27-3-2 in all-time national tourney competition. In earlier action on Monday, No. 2 Lindsey-Wilson advanced to the quarterfinals and so did No. 3 Vanguard (Calif.).
“I thought we played a very good Northwood team tonight,” said coach Matt Yelton after his club continued its drive to five straight national titles. “We had to play well to get a win. We put in a good performance in the first half, but had to battle to hold on against a really determined team.”
It took Lee almost 35 minutes to put the first score on the board. Aragona, the MVP of last year’s national, kicked in the goal at the 9:55 mark. Less than three minutes later, Fortune tallied her 16th goal of the season on an assist from Aragona, who now has totaled nine goals and 12 assists on the year. That was plenty good enough for a Lady Flames’ defense that has given up only 12 goals the entire year.
Yelton praised his defense. “I thought we got a great [performance] from our defense again tonight. (Sophomore) Michelle Spangler came on and played a key role when (senior) Kim Conrad had to leave injured,” Yelton said. Conrad suffered a hip injury and is 50-50 for Wednesday’s match.
Final statistics tell just how hard the team fought. Both clubs took 13 shots and each side put six on target. Senior goalkeeper Leah Wilson stepped to the front and recorded five key saves.
“We are happy to be advancing,” admitted Yelton. “The road doesn’t get any easier as the potential teams we will face in the quarterfinals are both excellent squads.”
Second Round Recap
Oklahoma City became the third-straight No. 4 seed to fail to reach the quarterfinals, as the Stars fell to unseeded Texas at Brownsville, 2-1. The Ocelots eliminated Oklahoma City on a Leah Russell goal that slipped through the grasp of the Stars' goalkeeper in the 89th minute. The two squads were nearly identical on the score sheet, with Oklahoma City holding a 12-11 advantage in shots, while Texas at Brownsville edged the Stars, 8-6, in shots on goal. Oklahoma City defeated Texas at Brownsville, 4-0, during the regular season (Aug. 31).
Lee scored two goals late in the first half to take a 2-0 victory over No. 16 Northwood (Fla.). Leah Fortune assisted Ashley Aragona in the 35th minute to open the scoring, before Aragona returned the favor in the 38th. The victory extended Lee's championship unbeaten streak to 22 consecutive matches. Lee will continue its quest for a fifth-consecutive crown against the winner of No. 8 Concordia (Ore.) and Cumberland (Tenn.) on Wednesday at 4 p.m. CST.
Vanguard stormed out of the gate with five first half goals, including two each from Jordan Davidson and Lindsey Holman-Kelly, en route to a 5-1 win over No. 14 Baker (Kan.). The Wildcats notched their lone goal in the 85th minute when Shalynn Eldridge-McMillan tallied her third goal of the season.
Similar to Vanguard, Lindsey Wilson utilized a strong first-half effort to down No. 15 Ashford (Iowa), 4-0. The Blue Raiders received two goals from Mia Persson, who with the performance became the all-time leading goal scorer in program history with 70 career goals. Lindsey Wilson outshot Ashford, 21-6, including an 8-4 advantage in shots on goal.
The higher seeds finished the day boasting a 12-3 scoring margin.