Sacramento State women’s soccer become Big Sky champions

women's soccer big sky champions:The women?s soccer team beat No. 1-seeded Northern Arizona University 1-0 to become Big Sky champions.:Photo Courtesy of Matt Bealy - NAU Media Relations

women's soccer big sky champions:The women?s soccer team beat No. 1-seeded Northern Arizona University 1-0 to become Big Sky champions.:Photo Courtesy of Matt Bealy - NAU Media Relations

Marshall Hampson

For the second time in four years, the women’s soccer team won the Big Sky Conference championship on Sunday with a 1-0 win over No. 1-seed Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Junior Elece McBride’s goal in the 52nd minute ended up being all the Hornets needed to win the championship game. Her goals during the championship game and the semifinal game gave McBride the Big Sky Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player award.

“My whole goal was to produce something for the team in some way and it was great that I could do it scoring a goal on Friday and Sunday as well,” McBride said. “I’ve been working hard all season, so I’m glad I could finally put something on the stat board for the team.”

Going into the tournament as the No. 3 seed, senior Leah Larot and McBride came back from a 1-0 deficit and each scored a goal in the semifinal match on Friday against No. 2-seed Portland State University to win the match 2-1.

The win placed them in the championship game against Northern Arizona University – another team they lost to in the regular season. McBride said playing the two teams after losing to the teams earlier in the season made it easier to focus.

“We knew that during the regular season that we lost to Portland State and NAU, but we knew that the games didn’t really depict how we were,” McBride said. “We knew we were a much better team than we had shown for. We could just play our game and not worry about what happened before.”

Both Larot and McBride lead the team in goals and points this season. Larot’s goal against Portland State University moves her to 10 goals and 21 points. With McBride’s two goals during the tournament, she brings her goal count to seven along with 15 points.

Larot, McBride, Savannah Abercrombie, Laura Bahno, Cori Shreve and Caitlin Pulver were all selected for the All-Tourament team honor.

But after the buzzer went off after the 90th minute, the women ran to Abercrombie, who shutdown the Lumberjack’s offense for her seventh shutout of the season, and celebrated their victory.

“There was just a sigh of relief and joy. It was just so many more emotions. There were definitely tears, but they were tears of joy,” Larot said. “We knew we accomplished everything we wanted to. One of our main goals was to get into the conference tournament and our next goal was to win the tournament. So accomplishing both goals was so important to us.”

At halftime, the championship game’s scoreboard was blank and the Hornets came out with sophomore Kelsey O’Donnell dribbling across midfield who passed to McBride upfield.

“I was trying to stay calm. I got the pass from Kelsey and I knew that even if we didn’t get the opportunities we needed to that we could try to capitalize on one of them,” McBride said. “I got the ball and had a window of opportunity, got a shot off and it just happened to be the one we needed.”

After the 52nd minute, the Hornets managed to keep the Lumberjacks from responding to McBride’s lone goal and were able to knock off the top-two seeds to win the championship.

“It was sweet to win at the No. 1’s home turf,” said head coach Randy Dedini. “We knew that we could go in and win the tournament no matter where it was. My girls stayed focused and they didn’t get intimidated by NAU because they knew what they were going up against.”

With the win, the Hornets earned an automatic bid to the 2010 NCAA Women’s Soccer College Cup. On Monday, the seeds for the tournament were announced and the team will be playing Stanford University on Friday in Palo Alto. The Hornets landed the No. 16 seed as Stanford University holds the No. 1 seed in the Stanford bracket.

“We’re excited about the opportunity and we’re going to go in and try and shock the nation,” Dedini said. “They are a very, very good team, extremely athletic and have great soccer players. So we know what we’re up against.”

The women are back practicing for the week before they take off for Palo Alto for their match against the undefeated Cardinal team. For Larot, the opportunity to keep playing soccer for her senior year against the No. 1 seed is something she said the team is grateful for.

“The spirits are high and we’re just really excited for playing Stanford no matter what the outcome is,” Larot said. “Everyone is really happy and really proud of each other.”

Marshall Hampson can be reached at sports@statehornet.com