SEATTLE – Seattle University women’s soccer overcame adversity to win the 2018 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Tournament and make its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013. With another 10-win season, the Redhawks continued their run as the top program in the WAC in 2018.
Seattle U has now won a total of eight WAC crowns in the last six seasons. It has four regular-season titles and four tournament championships since 2013. It is the lone Division I program to appear in its last six conference championship matches.
In her 22nd season, Coach Julie Woodward’s squad dealt with numerous injuries, forcing SU to reach into its roster depth. Eight freshmen appeared in six or more games, gaining valuable experience and making an impact as the season continued.
The Redhawks claimed early victories over Eastern Washington and Portland State, with junior Jessie Ray putting up two goals and an assist against EWU and then Laura Hooper recorded a goal and a helper in the win over PSU.
After a tough stretch that saw several key players miss time, Seattle U looked to rebound in WAC play. Ray scored two goals and senior Emily Zimmer added her first career goal in a 4-0 shutout of California Baptist on Sept. 28, while Ariana Romero made four saves to lift SU to a win in the WAC opener.
Following a tight setback against Grand Canyon, the Redhawks traveled to CSU Bakersfield on Oct. 5. Rachel Bowler, a junior, scored the first two goals of her career as SU picked up a key road win. Two days later, the Redhawks set a Division I-program record with 40 shots in a 3-1 victory over Chicago State at Championship Field.
On Oct. 12, Woodward’s group went to New Mexico State. Kelsey Vogel scored the first two goals of her career as SU won, 4-0. Romero made a career-high 10 saves in a scoreless draw at UTRGV on Oct. 14, including a clutch stop near the end of the first overtime session to keep the game alive.
The Redhawks returned home the following weekend for senior day at Championship Field. With WAC-leading Kansas City in town, SU put together a tremendous performance on its way to a 3-1 win. Bailey Hall, Holly Rothering and Leahi Manthei each scored, while Romero notched six saves in net. Seattle U was the lone WAC team to score on the ‘Roos in 2018.
Needing a win to secure a first-round bye in the WAC Tournament, the Redhawks won, 2-0, at Utah Valley on Oct. 27. Manthei scored twice as SU wrapped up a 5-1-1 finish in conference action, earning the second seed in the WAC postseason.
Seattle U opened the WAC Tournament with a 2-0 win over UTRGV in the semifinals. A Vaquero own goal and a Ray score put SU back in the conference finals for a sixth straight year.
Facing top-seeded UMKC, Vogel converted a penalty kick in the first half and Romero blanked the ‘Roos in a 1-0 win to claim the 2018 WAC Tournament Championship. SU extended its scoreless streak to 316:58. It conceded just one goal in a 624:38 stretch in WAC play.
Romero won WAC Tournament MVP honors, becoming the first freshman to win the award since 2009.
The Redhawks drew top-ranked Stanford in the NCAA Tournament, hanging in with the 2017 NCAA champion in a 3-0 setback.
Bowler and Hannah Carrothers played vital roles on the defense, as both outside backs were chosen All-WAC First Team. Midfielders Rothering and Isabelle Butterfield were voted All-Second Team after stellar contributions across the field. Butterfield also picked up United Soccer Coaches All-Region Third Team recognition.
Ray led the team with eight goals and seven assists in 15 games. The forward was picked All-WAC Second Team and Academic All-District. Manthei was next with five goals in 16 outings. Hooper, Bowler, Zimmer, and Vogel scored three goals apiece.
Romero finished the season with a 0.99 goals against average and an .800 save percentage. She posted six shutouts on the year.
Woodward will have to replace a strong senior class, but the Redhawks return many key contributors ahead of what should be another year of NCAA Tournament contention at Seattle U.