History making Lady Badgers soccer team competes for first time in nationals

Sydney Cragun embraces Rine Yonaha in celebration following the team’s win against Monroe Community College.

Amid a year shrouded in adversity and change, the Snow College Women’s Soccer team was still able to come together for a history-making season.

The Badgers, who received an at-large bid, advanced to the semifinal of the NJCAA DI Women’s Soccer Championship for the first time in program history. Despite a 4-0 loss to the Tyler Junior College Apaches, the season was still one of success and unity.

The team trained since last August awaiting the daunting unpredictability of the COVID-19 season, Coach Charles Long said. The long wait created good bonding experiences for the team that translated on the field, he said.

“They always came to practice with 100 percent effort,” he said. “They never put their head down.”

Throughout the season, the team maintained a high collective GPA while managing their sport, Long said.

Their hard-working attitude off the field reflected in their game play, with each player giving all they had up to the last minute in the semifinal. In the last ten minutes against Tyler, Long substituted in the remaining players who had not seen the field in the tournament.

“See it as a once in a lifetime experience,” he told his players. And they did. Everyone played well and with confidence, Long said.

It was tough waiting for the tournament selection, Long said. So, the team was ready to compete. Going into the tournament, the Badgers were without team captain Nicole Hadlock and Jessi Lane, yet another obstacle they would have to maneuver. In their previous tournament appearance, the team went home without a win. Long set a goal to win one game this year, and his team accomplished it and went beyond.

Their regular season was just as impressive. Before tournament play, the badgers had a record of 9-2, scoring 40 goals in the 11 games.

The NJCAA announced last October that the 2020-21 athletic seasons would not count towards student- athlete eligibility. Looking forward, Long said that he expects many sophomores to return to the team next year, a rarity. Though he also expects to lose multiple players to mission trips and marriage.

The ability to be flexible in the face of unpredictable circumstances is a skill the team gained this year; and that will serve them well in future seasons, Long said.

“We have to kind of battle through things sometimes,” he said.

Defenders Gracie Knutzen and Hallestyn Kap were named to the NJCAA All-Tournament Team, an honor that came as a “complete shock” to the players. But with their solid defensive performances throughout the season and the tournament, it should come as no surprise to others. Alongside goalkeeper Evelyn Brimhall, the Badgers were an intimidating defensive powerhouse.

The team was presented with the Lea Plarski Sportsmanship Award.

“That means we’re doing the right things on and off the field,” Long said about the awards. “They represent their family, team and school well.”

The Badgers are already gearing up for next season as their training begins Aug. 2.