The top-ranked Vikings are two wins away from an unbeaten season, carrying a 22-0-1 record into Thursday’s Division II national semifinal against Kutztown (Pa.) in Kansas City, Mo.
Western Washington hasn’t lost a women’s soccer match since Dec. 3 of last year, when the Vikings fell to eventual champion Grand Valley State in the national semifinals.
On Thursday, WWU returns to the Division II Final Four with an even more exceptional accomplishment in reach: Not only the program’s first national title but the completion of an undefeated season.
Western Washington has won 22 straight matches dating to the first match, when it tied 1-1 with Sonoma State. The Vikings are ranked No. 1 in the country, and they will be heavy favorites when they take on Kutztown (Pa.) University on Thursday evening in Kansas City, Mo.
This is WWU’s third national-semifinal appearance in the last four years. This is a team driven by postseason near-misses past, particularly its upperclassmen.
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“There are players that have tasted it and know they have the ability to do it,” Western coach Travis Connell said. “This is within their reach. Not a lot of teams realize, hey, we can win this thing. That is the mentality.
“We have players that have transferred to this school to win a national championship. We have players who have come back for their fifth (year). We have players that have sacrificed for this opportunity.”
Conference newcomer of the year Ashley Homer is one of those transfers, a junior goalkeeper formerly of the College of Saint Rose. She is just one of multiple Great Northwest Athletic Conference award winners.
WWU boasts the conference player of the year in senior defender Sierra Shugarts from Federal Way and the defender of the year in junior Emily Webster. At the other end of the field, Gabriela Pelogi has been on fire, netting five of her team-high 10 goals during the postseason.
That unblemished record has survived some close calls – most notably in the round of 16 against UC San Diego, when the Vikings came from a goal down to win in overtime.
“You throw around words like destiny,” Connell said. “We don’t really believe in that. We believe you’ve got to earn everything. But it does feel like the ball has bounced our way.
“You need a little luck. It would mean a lot. It would mean a lot for all of the players who have played for Western.”
Connell waxed poetic about a unique accomplishment an undefeated season is. He’s been at this long enough to realize what a special team it takes to pull that off.
“Sometimes we forget that we have that record,” Pelogi said. “For me, I just take it game by game. It’s awesome that we made it this far. But we just want to win it all. Then we can celebrate.”