Make that three tournament victories in four years.
Fort Lewis College, for the third time in the last four Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournaments, defeated No.
1 seed Metro State on the Roadrunners' home pitch at Auraria Field in Denver, a place where no other side has
succeeded more than once in that same stretch of time.
Fort Lewis, the 13th-ranked team in Division II women's soccer, scored a second-half goal Sunday to tie No. 4 Metro
State, then forced shootouts after 20 minutes of scoreless soccer through two overtimes. FLC won 4-1 in penalty kicks
to win its third RMAC Tournament title in four years.
"These girls, I've always believed they were this good," FLC women's soccer coach Damian Clarke said. "They're
starting to play with confidence, play with swagger. It's fun to watch. This has been a long time coming." Sunday's
victory likely will score the Skyhawks another home game, a first-round postseason game Friday at Dirks Field. The
NCAA D-II Championships bracket is set to be released today. The FLC women and FLC men, who won its tournament title
with a 3-1 home win against Metro State on Sunday, should share Dirks Field next weekend.
Metro State scored first Sunday, a goal 11 minutes, 42 seconds in from Jen Thomas.
Becca Mays picked up the turnover, then picked up the assist with the in-ball to Thomas, who beat FLC goalkeeper
Christine "Cricket" Schmelzle for a 1-0 lead.
"Metro played a fantastic first half," Clarke said. "We came out and played well, too.
"That first goal was a mistake in the back. We didn't clear the ball ... we gave a goal away. They earned it, though, with pressure, and they finished.
"It was not the same quality goal that we scored on them, though," he said.
Clarke shuffled his lineup in the second half to give Metro a look it had never seen before: forward Elena Benavides
moved to center midfield with Samantha Smith, center mid Jamie MacArthur moved to outside mid, and Hayley Hollenga
played up top with Torrey Larson.
"We knew if we could get the ball out there to Jamie, she'd stay wide and force people to deal with her," Clarke
said. "They overcompensated for her presence out there ... the attention that Jamie brought really freed up Elena and
Sam, and we took control of the middle of the field." With eight minutes and 12 seconds to play in regulation, Benavides banged home a cross from Hollenga to tie the game at 1.
"It was a scramble the first 30 minutes of the game, the last 15 we started to control the game," Clarke said. "The
second half, we just got stronger, and stronger, and stronger." Clarke said FLC did not allow a single shot on goal
in the second half.
"We pressured them into making mistakes in the back," he said. "Every time we've beaten Metro, we've been mentally
tougher - and vice versa.
"In the second half, we were running through tackles, playing physical, knocking people around a bit ...
possession-wise, we were different. We keep the ball so much better than Metro." Clarke called the overtimes "back
and forth," but Metro outshot (8-1) and outcornered (5-0) Fort Lewis in the 20 extra minutes.
After 110 minutes of soccer, FLC and Metro picked their PK shooters.
MacArthur scored first on Metro goalkeeper Becca Maloney.
Schmelzle saved Nicole Renko's first attempt for Metro.
Hollenga scored to give FLC a 2-nil lead.
Mays scored to keep Metro close.
Jessica Otero scored for Fort Lewis.
Rachael Michaels missed the frame entirely.
Nichole Kluk scored to seal the victory, and the championship.
Schmelzle, who allowed three goals and earned a shutout in three games, was named the RMAC Tournament most valuable
"Jamie was fantastic. Kluk and Laurel (Reinhardt) were unbelievable, and Cricket ... she was our MVP," Clarke said.