NCAA and NAIA Championships Roundup | 13 UWS standouts took part in penultimate rounds of fall competition
The national championship tournaments at all levels of collegiate competition wrapped up earlier this month, and 13 current & former United Women’s Soccer (UWS) standouts took part in the penultimate rounds of NCAA and NAIA competition.
Leading the way were members of the 2016 UWS National Champion Santa Clarita Blue Heat (West Conference), New York Surf (East Conference) and 2017 UWS National Champion Grand Rapids FC Women (Midwest Conference). At the NCAA Division I level, UWS was well represented as UCLA and Stanford battled it out in a memorable championship match with the latter capturing its second national title in Cardinal history.
DIVISION I: No. 5-nationally ranked UCLA (19-3-3) defeated Duke in the semifinal in a 4-3 penalty kick shootout after the match ended in a 0-0 draw at Orlando City Stadium, before moving on to the 2017 DI Women’s Soccer Championship Final. Six current & former Santa Clarita Blue Heat standouts were represented on the UCLA squad this season, including four members of the 2017 national semifinalists: midfielder Chloe Castaneda, forward Julia Hernandez, defender Jacey Pederson and midfielder Viviana Villacorta. Two Blue Heat alums from the 2016 UWS champions also took part – defender Gabrielle Matulich and goalkeeper Siri Ervik. Castaneda (9GP for Santa Clarita in 2017) was named to the All-UWS Second Team selection and Hernandez played in five games this past summer. The latter was also the 2016 UWS Championship MVP, scoring both goals in the national final victory. Pederson played in five games this past summer for the Blue Heat while Villacorta started in the 2017 UWS national semifinal & final. Villacorta did the same for UCLA and Hernandez was a super sub for Head Coach Amanda Cromwell, scoring in the PK shootout in the semifinal and assisting on the second goal in the 3-2 loss in the final to Stanford.
DIVISION II: No. 3-nationally ranked Mercy College (18-4-1) made it all the way to the semifinal of the 2017 DII Women’s Soccer Championship before losing to eventual champion Central Missouri. Three members of the New York Surf – defender Rebecca Conway, midfielder Corinna Ferrante and defender Trista Seara – suited up for the Mavericks, who had a historic season as they won a school record 18 games, their first ECC Championship since 2014, their first-ever East Region Championship and advanced to the school’s first-ever Final Four. Conway (5GP for Surf in 2017) was named to the DII Women’s Soccer Championship All-Tournament Team and Seara (7GP for Surf in 2017) was selected to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) All-Conference First Team. Both were part of a Mercy defense that allowed two goals in three NCAA Tournament games. Ferrante was third in scoring for the Mavericks (7-2-16) this fall. This past summer, she was named to the UWS Team Of The Week (Week VIII). No. 4-nationally ranked UC-Colorado Springs (17-5-1) also made it to the semifinals and defender Anna Gregg – a 2016 alum of the Colorado Pride – started vs. Carson-Newman.
NAIA: Midfielder Bethany Balcer continued her torrid run for the 2017 UWS National Champion GRFC Women from this past summer to fall competition with No. 1-nationally ranked & NAIA National Champion Spring Arbor University (24-1-1), starting all 26 games and scoring 86 points (37g, 12a). In the 2017 NAIA Women’s Soccer Championship, the 2017 UWS Midwest Player of the Year scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Benedictine in the final and had an assist in the semifinal. Fort Wayne United Gryphons midfielder/forward Malorie Henderlong also started in both games of the NAIA Championship for SAU, assisting on the game-winning goal over No. 3-nationally ranked University of Northwestern Ohio (20-3-1) in the semifinal. Detroit Sun FC midfielder/forward Evdokia Popadinova came off the bench for UNO in that match, as she finished up her fall season with 53 points (19g, 15a). The Bulgarian star played in 10 games for Detroit this past summer, and was named to the 2017 All-UWS Championship Team for her efforts for the national semifinalists.