The path to a fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division II women’s soccer national championship included 25 matches, and Grand Valley State produced one commonality in all of them. Each time it entered the halftime locker room, it did so with a shutout.
In only 18 minutes Saturday, Western Washington midfielder Caitlyn Jobanek ended that streak. And she simultaneously sparked the conclusion of an even longer streak.
Western Washington struck early and held on late to defeat three-time defending champion Grand Valley State 3-2 in the NCAA Division II women’s national championship at Swope Soccer Village.
Taking down a dynasty required three leads and trio of majestic goals — two from Jobanek in the first half and one final game-winner from Emily Webster, who slid a 30-yard free kick just under the crossbar in the 76th minute.
“They were just fantastic goals. That’s what it takes to beat a team like this, right?” Western Washington coach Travis Connell said.
That was certainly most significant piece of the blueprint, which finished with Western Washington hoisting its first national championship.
But the ability to respond was a key aspect, too. Four minutes before Webster supplied the game-winner, Grand Valley State had drawn even with Clare Carlson’s 18-yard strike.
Grand Valley State, 23-2-1, erased one-goal leads twice. Western Washington, 24-0-1, responded within four minutes each time to re-grain the advantage.
“I didn’t think we missed a beat,” Webster said. “We had a couple of lapses, but then we knew we had to get right back into the game and maintain that high tempo.”
That was the grunt work. The payoff were the goals.
In a game with a series of perfectly-placed shots, Jobanek ignited the string in the 18th minute, finding the top corner of the goal. After Grand Valley State forward Jayma Martin evened the score in the 33rd minute with her 20th goal of the year, Jobanek repeated the feat, lofting another 25-yard left-footed shot over GVS goalkeeper Jennifer Steinaway and into the upper netting.
Jobanek tied a school record Saturday with her 91st career match for Western Washington. Steinaway had allowed only six goals all season. All three from Western Washington on Saturday were from distance — and all were placed high in the shooting area.
“It’s not like we gave up easy shots,” Grand Valley State senior Marti Corby said. “They put away spectacular strikes.”
They each shifted Grand Valley State into unfamiliar territory. In its initial 25 matches this season, the team trailed for only 3 minutes, 20 seconds.
The deficit was a final Saturday.
“This game won’t be their legacy,” Grand Valley State coach Jeff Hosler said of his senior class. “To play in four national championships and win three is an incredible feat.”