Bryan Women’s Soccer no Easy Match For No. 1 Ranked Martin Methodist
PULASKI, Tenn. – The Bryan College Women’s Soccer program closed the chapter on a remarkable record-breaking season on Saturday in the 2017 NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship Opening Round but didn’t leave before proving that they can compete with the best. The odds didn’t look good for Bryan when they were paired with not only the No. 1 team in the nation, but a red-hot Martin Methodist College (Tenn.) squad that entered the National Tournament with an overall record of 20-1, including nine victories against teams either top-25 or receiving votes, and boasted an 8-1 all-time Opening Round record. When the Lions and RedHawks kicked off at the MMC Grissom Pitch, instead of finding a Bryan team that was inexperienced and unfocused during their first-ever national tournament appearance, Martin Methodist met a determined and talented group of individuals who would cause them to question if their season was closer to ending than most had anticipated.
“The girls were brilliant today,” said Bryan Head Coach, Paul Babba. “We asked them to be brave, to play for each other, and to enjoy the opportunity to play the game they love, on that stage, together. And that’s what they did.”
Despite Martin Methodist totaling 17 shots, Bryan’s defense was problematic for the RedHawks as they only had eight fall on target. Trailing closely was the Lions with an efficient six shots on goal of their nine total attempts. Bryan controlled the pace of the game as soon as the first half got underway. As the RedHawks tried to settle in, the Lions kept the home team on alert when reigning Appalachian Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Ruth Rosales, delivered the first shot of the game less than 10 minutes in. It took over 15 minutes of play for Martin Methodist to record their first shot, but Rosales helped Bryan apply relentless pressure with another look at the goal just moments later. Only one time this season have the RedHawks trailed at the break, but Rosales hoped to add another time to the list when she sailed the ball towards the goal at the eight-minute mark. Caitlin Dumond, Martin Methodist’s goalkeeper, came through with one of her game-changing saves to keep Bryan from finding the back of the net. On the opposite end of the pitch was another impressive performance as Morgana Hardt da Silva, the AAC Defensive Player of the Year, took on several one-on-one scenarios and prevailed to keep the top-ranked RedHawks scoreless at halftime.
As the final period unfolded, Bryan allowed Martin Methodist some separation, which resulted in eight of the RedHawk’s 10 second-half shots to be tallied over a 25-minute span. This stretch was Martin Methodist’s most promising look at control of the game, but at the 15-minute mark Bryan stunned the RedHawks when Yarahi Hernandez settled a pass, made a defender miss, and drove a shot to the top right of the goal leaving no chance for a save. Martin Methodist caught a break as the ball struck the crossbar and bounced out of play. The Lions had the RedHawks right where they wanted them and took full advantage as they went on the attack. Following a corner kick by Rosales, Johanna Rappe was played the ball and used her height to elevate above the opposing players and launch a header to the goal. Dumond was forced to react and make a spectacular save, getting just enough contact to send the ball over the back of the goal. Ana Ramirez added one more shot for the Lions late, which was again halted by Dumond. While Bryan overwhelmed Martin Methodist at the end of regulation, the Lions allowed the RedHawks only two shots in the final 20 minutes.
In a back-and-forth affair that looked to be going Bryan’s way, Martin Methodist was able to escape the upset with the only play 1:47 into overtime. Following a full 90 minutes of action and neither the Lions nor RedHawks getting on the scoreboard, the game would be decided in golden goal style. With 8:13 on the clock, Martin Methodist’s Hikaru Nakamura slotted a pass to Riko Sagara on the right side of the box. She netted the game-winner by floating the ball to the right corner of the goal and out of the reach of Hardt da Silva, capturing the 1-0 OT win to advance to the final site and round of 16 in Orange Beach, Ala.
Even though the RedHawks were able to soar away with the narrow victory, they were not given an easy first-round pass as the Lions rose to the occasion and delivered on many levels. Bryan held Martin Methodist to just one goal, while the RedHawks lead the country in total goals (108) and goals per game average (5.14). The RedHawks are also averaging 22.52 shots per game and 12.71 shots on goal per game, which ranks them 10th in the NAIA, but the Lions kept them to 17 and eight. Millene Cabral Vieira, who plays a major role in Martin Methodist’s success in the scoring department, was allowed just two shots on goal and no score while she is No. 1 in the nation in total goals (52), goals per game (2.48), total points (117), and points per game (5.57). She is also 3rd in shots on goal per game (4.48) and 5th in shots per game (7.05).
Leading the way for Bryan in shots was Rosales who ended with four total and two on goal. Behind Rosales was Makena Giles who took a pair of shots with both on target. Hernandez, Rappe, and Ramirez each had one shot, respectively. Hardt da Silva amassed seven saves while guarding the goal.
Babba remarked, “It’s been such a joy working with this group. And to our seniors, we say thank you. You can be proud of the legacy you leave behind.”
The year comes to an end for the Lions but the AAC Coach of the Year and 2017 AAC Regular-Season Champions made their mark in the history books with the most winningest season in program history. Bryan fought their way to an overall record of 12-7 and conference record of 9-2, which gave way to the Lion’s first-ever AAC Regular-Season crown.