For the first time since its inception in 1999, the Ferris women’s soccer team are regional champions and are heading to the national semi-finals.
Beating two of the region’s top teams, the Bulldogs punched their first ever ticket to the Elite Eight with a victory over reigning national champion Grand Valley in penalty kicks. Then, they beat hosts Bemidji State University with two second half goals to advance to the Final Four in Seattle, keeping the dream season going.
In their match on Friday, Nov. 18, against the Lakers, the Bulldogs saw 110 minutes of scoreless soccer in freezing conditions. Seeing as it was the fourth time that these two teams have met this season, both squads were familiar in what was going to be brought into this game. With three shots going off the pipes for the Bulldogs and a flurry of saves made by Ferris goalkeeper Darya Mossallaei, the game was left to be decided by penalty kicks, Ferris’ second time in penalty kicks this postseason.
“It wasn’t the prettiest soccer game, probably a game that was destined to go to penalties,” head coach Greg Henson said.
Grand Valley set the tone by scoring on their first shot, but senior Isabella Zamborini matched it. Senior Nikki May followed two rounds later with a goal, giving Ferris a 2-1 lead. With saves in the second and fourth round from Mosallaei and a shot off to post by the Lakers, the game was at the feet of freshman Ella Wolf. She took two steps, sent the ball to the top left corner, beat Grand Valley’s goaltender and sent her team to their first ever Elite Eight.
With a 20-15 lead in shots and a staggering 11-3 shots on goal, the Lakers tested Mossallaei. The performance brought her a career high in saves with 11. This was a main contributor in the Bulldog’s win over their long time rival.
“It was really back and forth for the entire game,” Mossallaei said. “We really grinded it out, especially in the cold weather.”
With just a day’s rest in between the games and more snow on the way, it meant another grueling match in the cold against Central Region champion and host Bemidji State. It was a frozen dead lock for the first 45-minutes, but the Bulldogs had the better results in shots, leading the category 10-2.
“We came out strong,” Henson said. “I don’t know how we go into halftime still 0-0.”
Despite the sub-freezing temperature, it didn’t take long for the offense to heat back up.
Sophomore Lindsay Cole sent a high ball off a corner kick to senior Payton Price, who headed it into the back of the net for the game’s first goal at 53:00. Price earned her sixth goal of the season, while Cole notched her sixth assist in the campaign.
Only 3:13 later, May took the ball from the Beavers and sprinted up the sideline to launch a curling kick over the hands of Bemidji’s keeper to give the Bulldogs some insurance. Her fifth goal of the year was the eventual game winner.
With just over 30 minutes left to play in regulation, the defense stepped up like they had throughout the entire post season. Bemidji had only four shots on goal, which were all saved by Mosallaei. With the shutout, the sophomore standout etched her name into the history books by breaking the long standing shutout record with 20.
A trip to the DII Championship Festival and the Final Four is in the team’s near future, where they will play tournament number-one seed West Chester on Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. in Seattle. The Cinderella story continues, and so does the Bulldogs’ chance of returning to Big Rapids with a National Championship trophy.