Photo: Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com
BELTON–For the first time in program history, the UMHB women’s soccer team is headed to the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons.
But unlike last season, when the Crusaders were sent to San Antonio for the tournament’s opening weekend, this year’s national tournament run will commence on their home field in Belton.
Monday’s NCAA D-III Women’s Soccer Tournament selection show brought about the news that The Cru was selected to the national field via a Pool C (at-large) bid and will serve as a regional host for the first two rounds Nov. 11-12. It marks the first time in program history that UMHB will host NCAA Tournament matches.
Joining UMHB in Belton will be Trinity (TX), Hardin-Simmons, who defeated the Crusaders in Abilene for the ASC title on Saturday night, and Emory. Trinity is the champion out of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) and Emory is an at-large team out of the University Athletic Association.
UMHB’s first round matchup will come against Emory, a program that the Crusaders have never faced, at 5 p.m. on Nov. 11. The Eagles enter the postseason with an 8-5-4 overall record, but won just one match in conference play, finishing seventh in the UAA with a 1-4-2 record. Kaitlyn Nimmer leads Emory’s scoring attack, with nine goals on the season in 17 matches.
UMHB is led offensively by Mackenzie Worthy, who has 11 goals this season, along with Ashley Vessel, who has seven. Goalkeeper Reagan Williams has posted a 10-1-1 record this season, with just four goals allowed and an 89.5% save percentage. The Cru is currently ranked No. 12 in the nation in the United Soccer Coaches Top 25 Poll, which marks the highest ranking ever in program history.
As a team, UMHB ranks seventh in D-III in goals allowed per game, with an average of just .333. Emory has allowed 1.12 goals per game through the regular season, which ranks 153rd in D-III. Offensively, the Eagles have scored 2.53 goals per game, while UMHB has tallied 2.22 per match.
Hardin-Simmons (16-1-2) and Trinity (12-4-2) will also face off in the first round in Belton at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the two winners moving on to Sunday’s 6:30 p.m. second round tournament matchup.
UMHB has faced two of the three this season, with the only unfamiliar opponent being Emory. The Crusaders split their two matchups with Hardin-Simmons this season, winning 1-0 in the regular season before falling 1-0 in the American Southwest Conference title match. Head coach Barry Elkins’ squad also won by a 1-0 margin against Trinity in San Antonio on Sept. 25 of this season, for UMHB’s first-ever win over Trinity.
Ticketing information will be available on cruathletics.com. Per the press release, “Ticket prices are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors, $5 for students and free for children two and under. UMHB students will receive free admission with their student ID. Fields will open two hours prior to kickoff with tickets purchased at the gates.”