By Malen Blackmon
The Brookhaven College women’s soccer team ended the season as the best team in the nation when they defeated Delta College in the NJCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship Nov. 17. They did not give up a goal during the entire national tournament.
The Lady Bears went into the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed and they lived up to their rating throughout the tournament.
In the first round, they beat Rowan College South Jersey – Gloucester 2-0. In the semi-final, they took down Brookdale Community College 3-0.
This is Brookhaven’s second national championship win. Head coach Jimmy Elder led the 2017 team to the same feat.
But in 2018, the Richland College Thunderducks beat Brookhaven in the District V finals, keeping the Lady Bears out of the playoffs and paving the Thunderducks’ way to win the national title. This season, it was clear to anyone in the bleachers Brookhaven was on a mission. They got back to the District V Final and had their rematch against Richland.
It was game of the week. Richland walked into the match ranked No. 3 in the country, while Brookhaven held all five first-place votes. The Lady Bears’ win in the District V Final marked the third time in the 2018-2019 season they beat Richland.
Whichever team came out of that match on top would surely have been the No. 1 seed in the nationals tournament.
All-Tournament honors went to midfielder Reagan Eichel, midfielder Paige Pak and defender Valeria Villanueva. Lady Bears defender Alexandria Sandlin was named the Most Valuable Player of the national tournament, and Elder took home the Coach of the Tournament award.
“It was an honor to be represented as the MVP,” Sandlin said. “I worked so hard.”
The Brookhaven team’s stats were remarkable this season. The Lady Bears were first in the country in shots, first in the country in shots per game, first in the country in shutouts and second in the country in goals scored.
Assistant coach Robert Williams said not making the tournament last year and coming back this year stronger made the season for him. “To go undefeated all season, and now Jimmy and I can say every single recruiting class that we’ve brought in has been to the national tournament.”
Coach Elder pedicted their trip to nationals before conference play started. He said he figured that it would come down to the Lady Bears and the Thunderducks at the end of the season. He said the Lady Bears could still feel the pain from last season’s overtime loss, and if Brookhaven could get over that hump this season, he felt they could take it all the way.
Midfielder Tatiana Garcia saidthis team was better than last season’s. She said they were fiercer and more dominant than they had been during her freshman year. “[This season] has had a lot of ups and downs, but it was all worth it in the end.” Garcia said. “We worked hard and it payed off.” Brookhaven capped off the undefeated season with a 17-0-1 record. According to NJCAA, the Lady Bears are the fifth Division III program to win multiple national titles.
The Bears will celebrate their win through the winter break, and then they will be right back to recruiting and preparing for the 2019-2020 season to defend their title. Expect it to come down to the District V Final against Richland College for the third straight season.