Hannah Kimsey's collegiate soccer career went from a difficult start to a euphoric finish.
After beginning at Portland State University, the Columbia River High School graduate transferred across the city to Concordia University. Her three seasons with the Cavaliers concluded Saturday when the team won the first national championship in program history.
"I feel really blessed to be at Concordia," the senior midfielder said. "I had a rough year at Portland State my first year, and coming into this program, I just knew as soon as I got here that it was going to be my home for the next three years. We call ourselves sisters, and we just really see Concordia as our family away from our families."
Concordia's family went 22-1-1, finishing the season on an 18-game winning streak and claiming the NAIA title with a 1-0 win over Westmont College of California in the championship match at Orange Beach, Ala.
The Cavaliers won their last 18 games. They posted 18 shutouts, allowing seven goals in 24 matches -- only one in their last 12 -- and two in a game just once. They trailed just three times all season. They defeated the teams that gave them the only blemishes on their record, avenging their only loss on Kimsey's goal for a 1-0 win over Embry-Riddle of Florida in the quarterfinals. Concordia and Westmont played to a scoreless draw in August.
"The whole year, we were focused on taking it a game at a time," Kimsey said. "That's what we really did -- we focused on the game at hand. It didn't really hit us that we were in the national final until we were getting ready for the game and it was like, 'This is our last game.' We took it a game at a time, and it led us here. It was awesome. It's a really great feeling."
Also at nationals, Concordia defeated St. Thomas of Florida, 2-0, in the round of 16 and Lindsey Wilson of Kentucky 2-1 on a second-overtime golden goal in the semifinals.
Kimsey was named to the all-tournament team.
Concordia faced particularly skilled individuals on the opposing teams, with each presenting a different set of challenges for the Cavaliers.
"Each game had a different game plan of how we were going to play each team," Kimsey said. "We ended up using some different lineups than usual and people were playing in a few different places. It all came together for us."
For the most part, Kimsey said, she was in her usual role.
"There a few times during different parts of the game when someone was getting tired, they pulled me more to the defensive side sometimes. If it was toward the end of the game and we were winning, they dropped me back into the defense so we didn't have as many people forward."
It led to Concordia's first national championship in the Cavaliers' fourth appearance in the title game. In 17 seasons, coach Grant Landy's teams are 311-58-24 with 16 Cascade Collegiate Conference championships and 13 national tournament appearances.
"We really wanted it for Grant," Kimsey said. "He's been working at this school for a really long time and he's made it to the final four times, and this is the first time he's won it. I'm excited for the other seniors, obviously, because this is our last year, but I'm really excited for the program. It's just awesome for the program."
Kimsey, who led the CCC in assists this season, converted on Jasmin Ayala's assist for the game-winner against Embry-Riddle.
"Jasmin made a great run all the way down the field," Kimsey said. "I saw the gap, and I just kind of ran into it and I was screaming at her, 'Jasmine, get your head up!' She made the pass and found my foot. I took a touch and placed it into the corner. … I scored more goals this year than I have in any other season, but I feel like maybe they were expecting me to pass it off or weren't expecting me to make that run all the way through."
Last week's weather in Florida was nothing like last week's weather in Washington.
"It was beautiful," Kimsey said. "Most of the time, it was really sunny and warm."
Concordia's semifinal was played in nearly 80 degrees with 90 percent humidity. While it was about 20 degrees cooler for the final, that was about as cold as it got for the tournament.
Kimsey lives with asthma, and the humidity affected her in particular. She said she "had a hard time breathing" and even had to visit a physician during the week and pick up another inhaler.
"Other than that, I enjoyed the weather," she said, laughing.
Concordia's Danciu named All-America
Concordia University senior forward Septi Danciu was named an NAIA Second Team All-American for the second consecutive season. The Evergreen High School graduate led the Cascade Collegiate Conference in every major offensive statistical category.
The native of Bristita, Romania scored 16 goals and tallied 13 assists, for a total 45 points. Eight of his 16 goals in 2013 were game-winners, and he scored four times on penalty kicks. Danciu finished his career with 54 career goals as a Cavalier.
EOU's Sorensen named academic All-America
Eastern Oregon University junior outside hitter Stefani Sorensen was named to the Capital One Academic All-America College Division Volleyball Second Team, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
A biochemistry/pre-medicine major with a 3.97 GPA, the Camas High School graduate helped lead the Mountaineers this season to a 25-6 overall record, the best season in EOU Volleyball history.
Sorensen was also named First Team All-Cascade Collegiate Conference, AVCA Northwest All-Region and an NAIA Scholar-Athlete.
She was second on the team with 377 kills, her most kills in a single season at EOU, averaging 3.40 kills a set with a hitting percentage of .298. She has 903 kills in three collegiate seasons, with a .297 hitting percentage.
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