UNA soccer heads to NCAA Tournament

The soccer team faces Saint Leo University in the first round of the NCAA D-II Women’s Soccer South Regional Nov. 14 in Miami.

The Lions are the No. 3 seed after compiling a (13-3-1) record and winning the Gulf South Conference regular season. It is the fifth time in six years UNA has made the NCAA D-II Tournament.

“It’s nice to be in the national tournament, and it’s nice to play someone not in the Gulf South Conference,” said coach Chris Walker. “It’s just exciting for the girls, as I could see by watching their reaction (to the selection).”

UNA looks to bounce back after losing 3-0 to Valdosta State in the GSC Championship game Nov. 9. The loss broke an eight-game winning streak and a string of seven shutouts.

“We were overwhelmed and nervous going into the final,” Walker said. “I think learning from that game will help us build from it.”

Saint Leo (12-5), from the Sunshine State Conference, was selected as the No. 6 seed. They lost to South Region No. 1 seed Rollins College in their conference semifinal 3-1 Nov. 7.

“The Sunshine State Conference is a great conference with some great teams,” said junior forward Chloe Richards. “I’m really excited to play Saint Leo because we haven’t played them before.”

All-SSC first-teamer Arielle Kabangu leads the Saint Leo squad with 17 goals to go along with her seven assists. Last year as a freshman she was named SSC’s Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.

Richards said if the team can settle down and play its game they will be fine in the tournament.

“We just didn’t turn up in the game against Valdosta, and we ended up behind and panicked the rest of the game,” she said. “We’ll definitely be calm and ready to go against Saint Leo.”

Richards, the GSC Player of the Year, leads D-II in goals with 26 but did not score in the last three contests.

The winner between UNA and Saint Leo will play No. 2 seed Barry University Nov. 16.