SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Hardin-Simmons' women's soccer team won the NCAA Division III National Championship with a 2-1 win over Messiah on Saturday evening at the Blossom Athletic Complex in San Antonio.
"This is big for our whole school, and our conference." said HSU head coach Marcus Wood. "Our girls came out and I thought took it to them early in the game, we got the two goals and then even after that I thought we held our composure and were able to do a lot of good things in the game. Messiah is a great team, we definitely earned the win tonight.
The Cowgirls took the momentum and control of the game just moments into it. Sophomore midfielder Katie Kuykendall served a big corner into the box that Megan Ryan touched over to Carlyn Powers and the senior delivered for a 1-0 lead for HSU just 2:12 into the game.
HSU carried that momentum and just 3:13 later, Kuykendall again served a ball into the box off a corner kick and Erin Low, deflected it in off her hip for a 2-0 Hardin-Simmons lead.
"Erin Low played the best game of her life," said HSU head coach Marcus Wood. "I have coached Erin since she was 11 years old as a club player. I have never seen her play better than she did this weekend. She was a senior and I started a freshman over her for most of the season and Erin didn't like it and she told me that, but I told her to stay with us that we would need her. The freshman got hurt and Erin played great throughout the playoffs. She took advantage of her time."
Low was named the offensive MVP of the tournament. Her teammate Rebecca Roth was named the defensive MVP. Roth was huge as the Cowgirls held off Messiah for the final 85 minutes. Roth finished the night with six saves, including four in the second half.
"As a goalkeeper you live to have the ball hit at you," said Roth. "I am so proud of my teammates and we are so excited to be national champions. Our whole team just beat a very good soccer team. We made the plays we had to over and over tonight."
After the two early goals the Cowgirls still controlled the ball for much of the first half. In the second half, Messiah came out full force trying to get back in the game.
"I expected them to come out and change formations in the second half, I just didn't think it would be from the start. They put on a charge. That is why Scott (Frey) is the best coach in America. I am proud of the way we defended. It is hard to kill off 20 or 25 minutes, but to kill off a whole halve is difficult."
Messiah came in as the two-time defending NCAA champion. They had not lost since the 2007 final against Wheaton. They finished the year with a record of 24-1.
Hardin-Simmons finished the season with an unblemished 24-0-1 record. The one tie was in the semifinals and HSU advanced on penalty kicks. The NCAA title was the first for Hardin-Simmons as a member of Division III. They joined Division III in the 1996-97 school year.
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