Howard kicked off its women’s soccer season with a big win over rival Hampton, completed its goal of winning back-to-back championships, and now will get a chance to play another school from Virginia.
Howard’s secured its first-ever trip to the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship by beating Alabama State 2-1 in the SWAC Championship. They will face top-seeded Virginia in the opening round on Friday.
The Bison won the championship in 2014 without the ability to accept the SWAC’s automatic bid.
Howard (13-7-2) wasted little time setting the tone of the match against Alabama State. Freshman midfielder Anna Mitchell put the Bison on the board 48 seconds into the match after taking a pass from sophomore forward/midfielder Whitney White and looping a chip shot over the head of Alabama State goalkeeper Gianna Guyot.
As expected with a championship on the line, Alabama State (9-11-1) would not go quietly. The Lady Hornets would tie the match at 1-1 in the 36th minute, but not because of their two star players, Aaliyah and Ariela Lewis. ASU’s Shyann Cordova took a free kick from near the left sideline and set up teammate Shelbi Vienna-Hallam’s equalizing header.
The score would remain deadlocked at 1-1 at halftime. Howard continued to put offensive pressure on Alabama State to begin the second half, getting off four shots and two corner kicks in the first 12 minutes (compared to two shots and one corner for Alabama State). The final shot of that sequence was a long distance attempt from White that caromed off the crossbar.
A minute and a half later, the Bison would set up the play that would eventually rewrite program history.
In the 58th minute, Howard’s co-captains – senior midfielder Dytria Ruddy and junior midfielder Sara Vaughan – connected on a play similar to the one Alabama State tied the match on. Ruddy sent a ball from the left side of the field to the far side post, where Vaughan stood unchecked. Vaughan headed home the wide open score and sparked a jubilant celebration amongst her teammates.