Featured Athlete
Kayla Anderson
Kayla Anderson
Women's Soccer
November 20, 2015

It's been a year of firsts for the St. Ambrose women's soccer team.

While competing in their first season as a member of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Bees were the first program in school history to win a CCAC title, and earned an automatic bid to the NAIA Women's Soccer National Championships.

And although St. Ambrose has qualified for the National Tournament on three previous occasions, the last coming in 2013, the Bees have their sights set on another first - getting a postseason win and advancing to the National Championship final site.

SAU is winless in the National Tournament, losing in the Opening Round all three times.

The 17th-ranked Bees hope to change that Saturday when they visit No. 16 Hastings (Neb.) at 1 p.m.

The winner advances to a 16-team, single-elimination tournament at the final site of Orange Beach, Ala.

"Our goal is to get to Alabama," junior defender Kayla Anderson said. "That's our starting point and we'll go from there. We know this team has never been past the first round, so we really want to get this win for the team and for the school."

To even qualify for the Opening Round, SAU had to overcome a sluggish start to the year. A 2-0 home loss to Culver-Stockton on Sept. 16 was the Bees' third loss in four games and dropped the team's record to 2-3. SAU surrendered seven goals over that four-match stretch.

Then after slipping by Roosevelt 3-2 in double overtime in the CCAC opener, SAU and its defense, caught fire.

That defense was led by Anderson, a second team all-CCAC selection this year, and fellow juniors Christina Franzese and Kaelin Trippe. All three played in SAU's last Opening Round game, a 4-2 loss to Davenport to close the 2013 season.

Over the final 13 matches this year, the Bees allowed just eight total goals, and three of those came to NCAA Division I Northern Iowa, the only team to beat St. Ambrose over the season's final two months.

A dominating 10-0-2 run through CCAC play gave SAU the regular season title and a 12-4-3 overall record but a conference tournament run came to an abrupt end in the quarterfinals, and supplies added motivation at Nationals. St. Ambrose out-shot Judson 21-5, but after 110 scoreless minutes, the Eagles ultimately advanced on penalty kicks.

"Our goal was to win the conference and prove ourselves, and we did that. We've compared ourselves to Olivet Nazarene in the past, a team that has gone to the National Tournament. We wanted to win, beat out other ranked teams. I think we proved to others we deserve to be there," Anderson said. "But the conference tournament definitely wasn't what we wanted. It seemed like we dominated possession the whole game but we couldn't put it in the back of the net."

St. Ambrose now turns its focus to Hastings, a program SAU has never faced. The Broncos, much like the Bees, started slowly with a 3-4 record before recovering to finish 15-4-1 overall.

"I think there are less jitters now than two years ago," Anderson said. "We've never played Hastings before but I think that will help us. We don't know what to expect, so we don't play scared, we just play. That's just like being in the new conference. We learned we have to play our game, we didn't gear things toward the opponent's game. And that will help at Nationals."