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Pride of Lions seeks title

Women's Soccer

Four Vanguard seniors who recall NAIA tournament debacle in 2009, hope for happy ending next week.

November 23, 2012|By Barry Faulkner
(Courtesy of Vanguard…)

In many ways, their journey began at the destination.

Now, four years later, Vanguard University seniors Rachel Rucireta, Amanda Couch, Lauren Evans and Charlotte Wisniewski will once again fly just more than 2,000 miles and play as many as four games in an attempt to retrieve their destiny.

The four friends, teammates and roommates since arriving at the Costa Mesa Christian school as women's soccer recruits, have, in many ways come full circle as they prepare to compete in the round of 16 at the NAIA Championships in Orange Beach, Ala.

They have also come of age, both on the field and off, forming roughly one-third of the lineup for the winningest team in the program's history.

The No. 2-ranked Lions (17-2) open in Alabama on Monday morning against Baker University of Kansas (13-6-1) at 11:30 Pacific Time.

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On a 13-game winning streak that includes Golden State Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles, 11 shutouts and a combined 42-2 goal differential, this four-member pride of Lions carries the stinging memory of the program's first trip to the "Final Site" NAIA Tournament in 2009.

"It was a brutal game," Rucitera, whose next start will be her 76th at Vanguard, recalled of the 6-1 drubbing by then-GSAC rival Point Loma Nazarene that rendered the 2009 Vanguard unit one-and-done in the self-proclaimed Heart of Dixie. The Lions had allowed just nine goals in their first 20 games.

"There were own goals and there was rain," Rucireta said. "We had beaten that team twice before that season, so I don't think we had the right mentality for that third meeting. Our goal was to make it to nationals and I think we were pretty humbled by getting our butts kicked that first game."

Evans, who like Wisniewski played for Vanguard Coach Randy Dodge at Aliso Niguel High, said that 2009 trip to Alabama that followed a 15-match unbeaten streak, was almost whimsical.

"It was our first time going to nationals and we were all really excited," Evans said. "I think we exceeded the expectations of the school and the coach, even the team. We were on this high when we got to nationals, then [the loss] was really disappointing. Since then, our goal has been to get back there again. It's really cool that it has happened our senior year.

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