For the first time since beginning the transition to Div. I in 2014, the soccer team won its first Southland Conference Championship after defeating Stephen F. Austin 3-1 Sunday afternoon in Beaumont.
The championship win also gave ACU an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, a first for all of Wildcat athletics.
Sophomore midfielder/forward Christina Arteaga put the Wildcats on the board first with a goal assisted by junior forward Sam Vestel 31 minutes into the game.
Four minutes later, ACU found the back of the net once again with a long strike from senior defender/midfielder Caity Acosta. This gave the Wildcats a comfortable 2-0 lead going into halftime.
Acosta said she was excited when putting her team up two scores.
“I was just trying to score and do whatever it takes to get our team on top,” Acosta said. “We worked so hard for this all season, we had the goal of winning conference at the begining of the season and we did it.”
In the second half, Arteaga earned her second goal of the game at the 60 minute mark, putting her team up 3-0.
With 18 minutes left to go, SFA broke their silence with a with a goal from junior defender Katie Jennings. ACU held up defensively after the Lumberjack goal, however, and cruised to a 3-1 championship win.
Rachel Johnson, redshirt junior goal keeper, saved one shot on goal in the game and let one other go by. With the shutout against Central Arkansas, Johnson and the Wildcats tied the Southland record of shutouts in a season with 13.
Johnson said she was ecstatic once her team had earned the title.
“I’m just so thrilled to be able to have this experience with my family,” Johnson said. “They worked so hard and made it easy for me because I didn’t have to do a lot this tournament, but I’m really proud of them for everything they’ve done.”
ACU doubled SFA’s shots in the game taking 18 while the Lumberjacks took nine.
At the conclusion of the game, junior midfielder/defender Shay Johnson was awarded most valuable player of the Southland post-season tournament. She scored two goals over three games, including the lone score in her team’s win over Central Arkansas.
The Wildcats now await their position and opponent in the NCAA tournament. They find out tomorrow evening and will host a watch party in the club level of the football stadium at 3 p.m.