After handling Lincoln Christian in the first round of regional play with a 7-0 victory the Lady Tigers sought to even the score against the defending national runner-up Maranatha Baptist. Earlier in the year the Crusaders defeated the Tigers 2-0.
On a neutral pitch with a strong wind both teams looked to take advantage of their strength. Maranatha with their speed and Grace with their tactics. In game adjustments were plenty as both teams looked for the tactical advantage during the first half. Grace with the wind at their backs were unable to capitalize during the first frame as the gusts kept pushing the ball just out of reach on their slot passes. Debbie Pekel continued to be the focus of the Crusader defense often times drawing 4 defenders when moving into scoring position. Defensively Grace was able to overcome the first few rushes of MBBC and make some adjustments which stalled the Crusader attack altogether. After a hard fought 45 minutes the teams were deadlocked with possession time and attacks evening out towards the end after a strong start by MBBC.
The second half kicked off with the same intensity the first ended with. Quickly making it apparent the game would be low scoring and decided on the details of the game rather than the larger tactical schemes. The teams were even, the coaches were even and the ladies from both sides were pouring themselves into the match. Maranatha caught a break on an unfortunate bounce quarter way through the 2nd half. Two Grace defenders closed in to trap a ball as it bounced just out of reach leaving a Crusader the chance for a nice finish on the far side to beat the all-region keeper Lindsey Anible.
Grace would do everything in their power to counter the goal. Switching players around and moving into an ever increasing high pressure system. As the Tigers continued to press and control the pace and attacks for the better part of the last 25 minutes they were able to create several quality scoring chances. No chance was better than an open netter from 15 yards out that was placed harmlessly over the crossbar. Time and time again the Tiger rush would press the Crash against the Crusader defense in the final minutes of the game. When the final whistle sounded both teams running on empty the Crusaders were able to outlast the Tigers in one of the best games in the short history of the rivalry.
“This one is hard to swallow, but MBBC deserved the win.” Said Coach Rumenapp, “Our girls left it all out on the field and I cannot ask for anything more than that. I am extremely proud of them and the season they had. Looking at where we are as a team now, compared to August when we first came out, the improvement is staggering. I could not ask for a better group of young ladies to coach. All season long they have done everything we have asked of them and worked hard and played this game as an act of worship.”