In just the second year in their existence the Lady Blazers soccer team was one of 48 teams in the nation chosen to compete for the NCAA Division II Championship. After a great regular season at 13-3-2, the team found themselves shocked after a 1-0 loss against rival West Georgia in the first round of the Conference tournament.
After that game the Blazers no longer controlled their own destiny. They had to wait until Monday to find out if they would participate in the tournament. The work they did in the regular season was enough for the Blazers to earn the 5th seed in the South Region of the tournament.
Coach Melissa Heinz was very proud of her young team making the tournament this season. “[I had] lots of excitement,” Heinz said. It’s important for any program to advance on to the NCAA tournament and when you do it’s exciting.”
In the first round the Lady Blazers will face off against familiar foe North Alabama. VSU enters Friday’s game on a two game losing streak while UNA comes in winners of four of its last five. In one match between the two this season the Lions came out on top 4-3. Awaiting the winner of UNA and VSU will be Gulf South Conference champion West Florida. The Argonauts earned the top seed in the South Region giving them a bye to the second round. West Florida finished ranked second in the nation’s final regular season poll.
As the Blazers enter uncharted territory they know they have to play better. Coach Heinz knows that the mindset has to change come Friday.
“I guess it’s going to have to be [a different mindset]. It’s a bigger game, a bigger platform, and its got a lot of meaning to it,” Heinz said. “They have to focus even more, be more determined, and just elevate every aspect of their game.”
The Blazers need someone to step up, who can lead the team to play like they know they can. They have been shut out in two straight games and the offense obviously needs to show up on Friday. The offense has been streaky this season and VSU has scored an average of about 1.6 goals per game. One goal will probably not be enough against North Alabama. They have averaged 2.7 goals a game and have only been shut-out once this season.
In the second year of existence the Lady Blazers have shocked many people again. Lets hope the team has a few more surprises in store.