Article by Alex Brooks and Imani Lewis
The Fighting Owls have found success, yet again, in women’s soccer after taking fourth place at Nationals. Putting together an excellent season of 16-3, the team ran through their competition to claim conference, region, and district championships.
Coach Jason Muffoletto, reflecting on the season, shares, “It was a great accomplishment to come back [to Nationals] this year. In this season, we decided, as a team, to keep our minds off of Nationals. We were focused on game-to-game, day-to-day achievement.”
The stellar performance of the team took them to Florida, as Amanda Ballard shares, “Our first game against Butler Community was a highlight because it was our first win of the competition. We were all a bit nervous beforehand, but our coaches told us that, ‘We shouldn’t be afraid of them, but [that] they should be afraid of us.’ With that mindset, not only could we compete in the National Championship competition, but we could also go and fight for the 1 # spot.”
“The NCJAA Tournament was an experience of a lifetime,” recalls goalkeeper, Aubrey Baldwin who ended the season with 44 saves and 9 combined shutouts. “It was such a focused, but fun environment.” She continues, “We made friends with other teams, specifically Monroe Community College, who we actually played during the season and beat in overtime, but it was a fluke goal that put us there. It was good to see all the different backgrounds coming together. The atmosphere was so intense, and we loved every second of it.”
In a defensive game that included 11 saves from Baldwin, they beat the #4 team after scoring early off the foot of Ballard, assisted by lead scorer Rivera, who led the team with 10 goals and 13 assists the season. The victory took the team to their first career semifinal. “Tied 1-1 at the half, playing the # 1 team in the nation during the National Championship Semi-Final, was the highlight of the competition for me,” says Coach Mo. “We were on their heels. I think playing that game projected us as a team, showing people that we could compete nationally.” Despite two strong performances, the Lady Owls would go on to lose to Tyler and then to #2 Scottsdale.
Baldwin emphasizes, “We were proving ourselves every second of every game and now people know who we are and that we are a tough team. To be playing against teams like Tyler, who have 14,000+ students and all international starter players, was a crazy experience, especially since, from my opinion, we hung right in there with them till the end.”