National tournament bid a history maker

Angela Westphal dribbles the ball during the Lions loss to Washburn.

Mitsumasa Misaki

Angela Westphal dribbles the ball during the Lions’ loss to Washburn.

For the first time in school history, the Missouri Southern Lions are heading to the women’s soccer NCAA Division II National Tournament.

Southern will be the No. 3 seed in the Central Region.

The Lions will play No. 2 seed Washburn at 11:30 a.m. Friday Nov. 3 at Ak-Sar-Ben Field in Omaha, Neb.

The Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, defending national champions and the current top-ranked squad, will serve as tournament host and face No. 4 seed University of Central Missouri at 2 p.m. Friday. The winners of the first-round matches will meet in the championship match Sunday Nov. 5.

“We’re extremely excited to advance to the NCAA Division II Tournament and represent Missouri Southern and the entire Joplin community in the postseason,” said Southern head coach Trevor Wachsman. “We’ve worked hard for this opportunity and we’re going to go up there and hopefully play our best and whatever happens will continue to serve as building blocks for our program.”

Advancing to the 32-team national tournament puts an exclamation point on a sucessful season for the Lions. This year, the Lions tied a school record for victories by finishing 11-4-4 overall and achieved their highest-ever conference finish by finishing all alone in second place in the MIAA with a 9-1-3 conference mark.

For Southern, the tournament’s first-round game will be a rematch of two earlier contests in the season against MIAA foe Washburn, with the last meeting taking place last Oct. 29 with the MIAA championship at stake.

The Lady Blues won 2-1 and captured the conference championship in Topeka, Kan. The Lions won the first meeting of the season 1-0 on the strength of a game-winning goal by Nikki Llewellyn with just five seconds remaining in the first overtime period.

The No. 21-ranked Lions tied UCM in both matches this season, while falling at UNO 5-0 earlier this season.

Offensively, the Lions have been led by Llewellyn’s team-high in goals (6) and assists (5). Llewellyn earned MIAA Freshman of the Year honors last year by leading the club with 14 scores.

The Lions also have received immediate impact from freshman Jessica Harthcock, who has tallied three goals this season, with each goal being a game-winner for Southern.

Reigning MIAA MVP Kaney Tyler has been solid in the net once again for the Lions by posting nine shutouts, which tied for first in the MIAA, along with 106 saves and an 0.84 goals-against-average.

The 2005 Lions finished with an 11-5-4 record and finished second in the MIAA. Three Lions earned all region honors as Llewellyn, Tyler and defender Jessica Buhman all garnered post season honors.

Tyler and Llewellyn were named the MIAA’s Most Valuable Player and Freshman of the Year, respectively.