by Alan Babbitt
Braginton set up Dalton for the winning goal in a 2-1 victory against No. 24 Otterbein University Saturday in Westerville, Ohio, in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament.
The Flying Dutch (16-2-2 overall) advanced to the round of 16 for the first time in team history. On Friday, November 16, Hope will face the winner of the Sunday, November 10 match between Scranton College (Pennsylvania) and Christopher Newport University (Virginia) at a site to be determined.
"This is what we've been working toward this whole year," said Dalton, a senior midfielder from Rockford, Michigan (Rockford HS). "I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else. Our team is a family. We have fun, then we come to compete."
Added senior defender Eliza Beard of Holland, Michigan (Black River), "I can't ask for anything better. To go somewhere Hope has never been is an awesome experience. To do it with a group of girls who have been working super hard since our freshman year is a really awesome opportunity."
Two first-half goals from Dalton and a 2-0 halftime lead made the difference for the Hope, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association regular-season champions.
Dalton, pictured at right, struck first, burying a penalty kick 10 minutes, 18 seconds into the match after an Otterbein foul in the box.
Dalton padded the lead 15 minutes later when she ripped a shot off the Otterbein keeper who was positioned just outside the right goal post. She was in a crowd with four Otterbein defenders around her.
Braginton, a senior forward from Grandville, Michigan (Grandville HS), created the scoring opportunity by saving an entry pass from senior forward Grace Bubin of Rockford, Michigan (Rockford) from going over the back line and out of bounds.
Braginton, pictured at right, flicked the ball back to Dalton with a header.
"Rachael is a really good post-up player with her back to the goal," head coach Leigh Sears said. "She automatically looks for Rylie. She thinks, 'Where is Rylie? I'm going to head it. I'm going to lay it off. I'm going to flick it.' Sometimes it drives me crazy because they're running so tight together. They know how to make it work.
"Two goals in the first half is a big deal for us. We said at halftime Otterbein is a team that doesn't stop. They keep coming from behind. We knew they were going to fight to the end."
Otterbein (17-3-1) pulled within a goal midway through the second half. The Cardinals scored Delaney Earl's 13th goal of the season following a pressure-packed sequence that included three corner kicks in a span of two minutes.
Hope, which was not yielded more than one goal in a match all season, held firm over the final 24 minutes, 52 seconds.
Goalie Jordanne Ellingboe of Grand Haven, Michigan (Grand Haven) finished with five saves.
It took a team effort on defense, Beird said.
"The two goals definitely allowed us to take a breath. They were a little safety net for us," Beird said. "It was a really intense game. They were big, fast girls who really knew how to play soccer. That was a hard challenge. Our midfielders really helped us with the middle of the field."
Watch post-match press conference below.