The Doane College women’s soccer team did lots of talking this season about believing in themselves and each other.
But it wasn’t until forward Courtney Richards tore her ACL and the Tigers lost three straight that they turned their words into actions.
“We had to kind of grow up at that point and decide truly how we wanted to end the year,” coach Jeff Voigt said.
Voigt said the Tigers stopped moping about losing Richards, the team’s second-leading scorer with 12 goals, and won their final six games.
That included three victories in the Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament, earning Doane its first title since the program started in 1996 and its first berth in the NAIA national tournament that starts this weekend.
The Tigers (14-5) will travel to Oklahoma City on Saturday for a 2 p.m. game.
The Hastings College men and Bellevue women also advanced. The Broncos play at Oklahoma Wesleyan and the Bruins at Baker on Saturday.
Voigt, who took over as coach last March, inherited a veteran team with eight seniors. He picked up some talented newcomers, such as GPAC offensive player of the year Sara Cushing, who has 21 goals. She’s one of four players from Papillion-La Vista South and 11 from the Omaha-area on the roster.
Voigt knew he had lots of talent, which showed in the team’s 8-2 start. But after not making it past the opening game of the GPAC tournament since 2004, he had to convince his players of that, too.
“Belief in winning has been lacking in the past,” he said. “Each and every week we got a little more confident. Winning our first tournament game jump-started us.”
Doane edged Concordia and then Midland University by 2-1 scores to start the tournament. Although they scored first against Midland, the Warriors came back to tie it. That’s when things would normally get shaky for the Tigers.
This time, though, Cushing scored with 13 minutes left to clinch the win, giving the Tigers tons of confidence for their title showdown against Hastings College, which had beaten them 2-1 during that three-game lull. Doane shut Hastings out 3-0 in the final behind Cushing’s hat trick.
Voigt said that was his team’s reward for the hard work and dedication the players showed at every game and practice.
“At the end of the year we kind of figured out the puzzle,” he said. “We’re playing really well right now.”
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