by Eva Dean Folkert
It's a waiting game now.
The No. 17th-ranked Hope College women's soccer team fell to Adrian College, 1-0, in the MIAA Tournament finals at Van Andel Soccer Stadium on Saturday, and the loss means an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Women's Soccer Championship has eluded the Flying Dutch for the first time in three years.
Since the winner of the MIAA Tournament automatically gets an NCAA invite, Hope must now wait to hear if it receives an at-large bid to the national tournament when the NCAA announces the 64-team bracket on Monday, Nov. 5 at 1:30 p.m.
The regular-season MIAA champions, Hope is currently ranked third in the NCAA Central region and has a record of 14-2-2 overall.
The unranked Bulldogs (13-5-1) will be the MIAA's AQ representative in the NCAA tournament for the first time in league history.
Going into Saturday's game, the Flying Dutch were the two-time defending champions of the MIAA women's soccer tournament and were seeking their seventh NCAA Tournament appearance and the fourth in five years under head coach Leigh Sears. The Flying Dutch reached the second-round last season before losing to third-ranked University of Chicago.
But just one goal was enough to make Hope have patience to learn of its possible NCAA participation, even though it dominated time of possession for much of the game. The Flying Dutch led in shots (12-2), shots on goal (4-2), and corner kicks (7-1).
That lone Adrian corner kick, though, was the fateful precursor to the Bulldogs', and the game's, only goal. At the 12:18 mark, Adrian sent the ball into the Hope box from a corner where it was headed first by senior defender Rachel Rodeheffer and then headed again by freshman forward McKenna Mahoney for a goal that snuck in just below the goal's crossbar.
Sears didn't believe then that that would be the end of the game's scoring. Post-game, it was still hard for her to believe.
"We started slow, so be it. They played a really good first half. Credit to them," she reasoned. "But we had chance after chance after chance….It's called soccer. That's how it goes sometimes."