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Jimmies fall short of national tournament

University of Jamestown's Olivia Rivas (16) looks to control possession for the Jimmies in a match earlier this season at Jimmie Turf Field. John M. Steiner / The Sun

It would be easy to feel disappointed with the way the women's soccer season ended for University of Jamestown.

The 22nd-ranked Jimmies found out Monday they won't be one of 31 teams playing in the NAIA women's soccer national championship tournament in Orange Beach, Ala., later this month. A team that won a program-best 14 matches and was ranked inside the NAIA's top 25 for the first time in school history fell just short of its season-long goal.

Jamestown needed to be one of six at-large selections.

"We were probably the next team on the cusp (of qualifying)," said Jamestown coach Nick Becker, who in six seasons is Jamestown's winningest women's soccer coach (59-48-8). "They look at the top 25 teams and also take into account Modified RPI (Modified Ratings Percentage Index). We were probably the 32nd or 33rd team overall."

But really, the 2017 season was just another rung in the ladder for a program that's been on the rise under Becker. The team reached a conference championship match for a second consecutive season and also finished with double-digit wins for the second time ever.

Becker's squad rolled to 12 victories last fall and lost to Bellevue in the title game of the North Star Athletic Association conference tournament. The Jimmies fell to 20th-ranked Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I) tournament host Georgia Gwinnett 3-1 in the A.I.I title match Saturday in Lawrenceville, Ga.

The Jimmies, heartbreakingly, were playing without senior attacking midfield star Connie Contreras (32 career goals), after she dislocated her shoulder in Friday's 2-0 semifinal win over Bellevue in Lawrenceville. Junior goalkeeper Lauren Sayler also injured her knee in Saturday's title tilt.

A win in the championship would have automatically qualified the Jimmies for nationals. The tournament includes 24 automatic bids based on conference tournament results and the host team, to go along with the six at-large teams.

"After we lost in the final, we knew our chances were a little slim but we told the girls we were proud of them," Becker said. "It's a step in the right direction. This should motivate the team next year to keep moving forward."

A.I.I Awards

Jamestown All-Conference Selections

First team: Connie Contreras, Sr., midfielder; Olivia Rivas, Jr., defender.

Second team: Kristin Breaux, Fresh., forward; Dianne Miranda, Jr., defender; Lauren Sayler, Jr., goalkeeper.

A.I.I. Newcomer of the Year: Breaux.

A.I.I Champions of Character: Sayler; Jaelyn Lowery, Jr., midfielder.

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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