Marlins women’s soccer team to face Case Western Reserve in Salem Dec. 2 in Division III semis

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, Virginia Wesleyan made all four of its penalty kick attempts, and goalkeeper Rachel Quigley saved Christopher Newport’s final two tries during the shootout, leading the Marlins to their first Division III Final Four berth since 2006.

Virginia Wesleyan (18-2-4) will face Case Western Reserve in Salem at 4 p.m., Dec. 2.

“There’s a lot of talented players who just gave their heart tonight,” said Virginia Wesleyan coach Jeff Bowers.

The No. 3 Captains, who were aiming for their second-straight national title, outshot the Marlins 26-6, and won the shots-on-goal margin 12-3, but Quigley made 12 saves and kept the Captains off the scoreboard.

Christopher Newport (19-0-2) controlled the pace of play for most of the match in front of 712, the fourth-largest crowd in the team’s history, but could not get one past Quigley, as defensively, Virginia Wesleyan (18-2-4) held firm.

The two teams traded goals during the first three rounds of the penalty shootout, but in the fourth round, Quigley stopped a shot from Nyah Savage. After Tori Green’s attempt eked past Captains goalkeeper Jaya Daniel, Quigley stopped another attempt, this time from Sarah Smith, to set off the Marlins’ celebration.

“Just with PKs, I just try to go in with as much confidence as I can, and just believe,” Quigley said. “And also, with people kicking the ball, I have full faith in every single one of my teammates who steps up to that PK spot that they’re going to make it and I just want to save it for them.”

“It was an unbelievable season,” said coach Jamie Gunderson. “Winning it all last year was phenomenal, but coming into this year we knew it was going to be an uphill battle because everyone knew exactly who we were this year. I couldn’t be more proud of this group and this senior class for how they handled it. They rose to the occasion.

“Tonight didn’t go our way, Virginia Wesleyan battled really hard throughout the entire game. There’s a couple chances we don’t finish and then we go to PKs – sometimes it doesn’t go your way and that’s the game we play.”

The Captains’ narrowly missed on chances in the first half of the game, with Emily Talotta’s volley six minutes into the match just missing wide, and she blistered a hard shot just wide right of the goal in the 19th minute.

And early in the second half, only a sterling, diving stop from Quigley prevented a free kick from Smith from getting into the back of the net. Minutes later, Quigley had a trio of saves from Emma Ricci and Talotta.

Another free kick from Smith late in regulation just missed, and the Marlins’ Shyenne Diaz was stopped by the Captains’ Re Slater one-on-one.

Though the match will officially go in the books as a draw, it will not feel like one for either team, with Christopher Newport hoping for a national title repeat, and Virginia Wesleyan getting to keep its national title aspirations intact. It will, though, keep a 45-match unbeaten streak to start Gunderson’s tenure as coach (41-0-4).

With the draw, Christopher Newport logged the team’s second five-game shutout streak of the season and will carry a run of 483:07 of shutout ball into next season.

With 16 clean sheets, CNU matches last season’s record-breaking campaign and sets a new record for shutout percentage by holding opponents empty in 72.7 percent of their matches this season (16-22). The run ties Hardin-Simmons (Sept. 5, 2016 to Nov. 19, 2017) for the fifth longest unbeaten streak in NCAA Division III history. 

“This senior group is a special group,” Gunderson said. “They’ve taken this program to new heights when, in an Elite Eight match, you can kind of feel like we didn’t achieve our goals. That’s an amazing accomplishment that this group has laid the land for the future of this program.” 

The Marlins, who lost to Christopher Newport earlier this season, have now advanced past three top-25 teams in their four games, defeating No. 21 University of Puget Sound, #23 Rowan, Wisconsin-LaCrosse and now the No. 3 Captains.

Bowers said the team has been a talented one over the past few seasons, but has been overlooked.

They likely won’t be now.

“I think we’ve played four really solid teams, without a doubt,” Bowers said. “It’s just a credit to the team. Overall, it’s them. We’re prepping them the best we can but they’ve had the heart and the energy.”