SEATTLE (Jan. 24) – In the 2016 season, Seattle University women’s soccer continued its dominance of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four seasons. With a stellar group of returners, the Redhawks are position to make a postseason run in 2017.
SU has established itself as one of the most successful programs in the country. In the last four seasons, the Redhawks are one of four Division I schools to win at least seven of their last eight possible conference titles. They have claimed each of the last four WAC regular season titles and three of the last four WAC Tournament crowns. Seattle U is also one of just nine non-Power 5 conference schools to qualify for three of the last four NCAA Tournaments and one of 21 Division I programs to advance to the NCAAs three times since 2013.
In 2016, SU rolled through the WAC, going a perfect 7-0 in the regular season and then winning the WAC Tournament. The Redhawks have gone unbeaten in 23 consecutive WAC regular season matches-the longest such streak in conference history. They have also won 14 straight WAC regular season outings, which marks the second-longest win streak in WAC annals. SU holds the record for longest win streak with 15 consecutive wins from 2012-14. In its last 39 conference regular season games, Seattle U has lost just once.
The Redhawks opened 2016 with a pair of 1-0 road victories. Brie Hooks scored game-winners at Texas (Aug. 19) and at Boise State (Aug. 26) as SU began the season 2-0. After dropping four of five outings, the Redhawks rallied, going 12-1, including a ten-game win streak, to win the WAC regular season and tournament titles.
Stephanie Spiekerman spearheaded the Seattle U defense, allowed more than one goal only four times this season. Jennifer Plummer scored in a 1-0 win over Gonzaga on Sept. 18 and then Hooks scored an overtime winner at UC Riverside on Sept. 22. SU fell at Cal Poly in its next match, but it answered with wins in each of its next 10 contests. Isabelle Butterfield scored the game-winner in a 1-0 win over defending WAC champion Utah Valley on Oct. 1 and then she assisted on Natasha Howe’s game-winning goal in a home victory over Grand Canyon.
On Oct. 9, Hooks continued her clutch scoring, tallying an OT game-winner in a 3-2 win at CSU Bakersfield. Seattle U followed with wins at New Mexico State (Oct. 14) and UTGRV (Oct. 16). It came home and claimed decisions over UMKC on Oct. 20 and then Chicago State on Oct. 22. The win over CSU marked SU’s eighth shutout of 2016.
To conclude the regular season, the Redhawks traveled to Utah Valley on Oct. 28. Howe recorded hat trick in a 3-1 win, wrapping up SU’s unblemished WAC regular season mark. Her three-goal performance was the first by a Seattle U player since Stephanie Verdoia posted a hat trick on Oct. 7, 2012, against Idaho.
Hooks and Spiekerman led the way at the conference’s awards banquet. Hooks earned WAC Offensive Player of the Year, while Spiekerman won WAC Defensive Player of the Year. The pair was joined by Howe and Karli White on the league’s first team, while Rosalie Sittauer was chosen All-WAC Second Team.
Woodward took her club to UMKC for the WAC Tournament in November. SU had to knock off Utah Valley for a third time, notching a 2-1 win in the semifinals. Howe and Butterfield each scored to help Seattle U advance.
In the championship, the Redhawks faced UMKC. The teams were even at 1 in the second half when Howe sent a ball ahead to freshman Jessie Ray, who scored her first collegiate goal to provide the difference in SU’s 2-1 victory. Howe was named WAC Tournament MVP following the match.
With the win, the Redhawks celebrated their third WAC Championship since 2013 and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the third time in program history. SU is one of 21 programs to appear in three of the last four NCAA Tournaments.
On Nov. 11, Seattle U played at fourth-seeded UCLA in the first round of the NCAAs. The Bruins scored early, but SU battled back, competing with the hosts for the rest of the first half. The Redhawks were unable to find the back of the net in a 3-0 UCLA win.
Hooks finished with seven goals and four assists to lead the offense, taking NSCAA All-Region Second Team honors. Howe put up seven goals and three helpers, while White contributed six goals and three assists in 21 outings. White was named NSCAA All-Region Third Team along with Spiekerman.
Spiekerman and Butterfield were the other two Redhawks to start all 21 games in 2016. In goal, Ashley Routh started 13 contests, posting a 0.86 goals against average. Mackenzie Curry started eight matches, allowing just nine goals and posting a .727 save percentage.
At the team's year-end banquet, several Redhawks were honored. Hooks and Howe shared MVP honors. Howe also picked up the most inspirational award, Hannah Carrothers earned the unsung hero prize, and Rachel Bowler was most improved. Mariah O'Neil won the coaches' award, which recognizes character, commitment, and consistency.
Hooks, Howe, and O’Neil will graduate this year, but Woodward returns eight regular starters, including several all-league performers. In 2017, SU will look to extend its WAC dynasty and make noise in the NCAA Tournament.