KISSIMMEE, Fla. --- Back in August, California Baptist University set numerous team goals, two of which were fairly significant.
The first one was to win the Pacific West Conference. The second was to be the last team standing on the final day of the season.
Done and done.
PacWest Champion California Baptist University are now national champions.
Bernadette Witz, who missed seven games with an injury earlier this year, scored twice to erase an early deficit, and the Lancers went on to dominate Trinity International 2-1 to claim the program's first-ever national championship Saturday in their first year as National Christian College Athletic Association members.
While Thursday's 6-0 semifinal win over Mt. Vernon Nazarene was a night for individual accomplishments, Saturday afternoon belonged to the team. The win not only gives the Lancers their first-ever national title, it also gives them a remarkable 18-2-1 record, setting a program record for wins in a season.
Quite possibly, this group will go down as the best in program history. Only five players in program history have scored more than 100 points. Two of them-Kylee Nicassio and Fabiola Zanella da Silva-are on this squad. Nicassio set the program's career goal scoring record Thursday. They allowed an all-time low 12 goals in 21 games and tied the program record for shutouts with 13. They won a program record 18 games, and now they are called national champions.
"It's humbling to be the last team standing after a long season, and the players have been rewarded for their hard work," said CBU Head Coach Kristen St. Clair. "It doesn't matter what level you play at, A national championship is a national championship, and winning one is pretty sweet."
The top seed in this year's field, the Lancers rolled through their first two games winning by a combined score of 9-0. Today, was another story.
The Trojans only took two shots, one in each half, but they only needed one. In the 17th minute, Kelly Streekstra lifted a deep free kick into the area. It sailed over everyone, including Lancer keeper Nicoline Jorgensen and into the net, giving the third-seeded Trojans a stunning early lead.
Faced with their first deficit of the tournament, though, the Lancers gathered themselves, battled back and took over. Witz, who earned NAIA All-Tournament honors last year, rose to the occasion on the biggest stage of the season yet again.
"We had some adversity early, but the girls rolled up their sleeves, went to work and overcame it," said St. Clair. "I'm really excited for the players, because they worked hard and are deserving. I'm proud of Bernie, too. She battled through adversity with multiple injuries all year. We are blessed to have several players who can score, but today's was Bernie's turn to shine."
With halftime just minutes away, the Lancers created a turnover and Channing Perea found a streaking Witz, who tucked away her fifth goal of the year past a diving Elizabeth Burynski in the 43rd minute.
She then got the winner in the 69th minute, getting set up by a masterful play from da Silva, who got the ball in the area, made a cheeky move to get around a defender and to the end line, then cut a ball back to the middle to Witz, who hammered home the winner.
"I'm just glad I could come out and do something for my team," said Witz. "They've been so supportive of me all year, and there's no greater feeling than scoring in the final game and winning the championship. It makes up for all the other stuff that went on this year."
For da Silva it was her second assist and eighth point of the tournament.
The Lancers ended up outshooting the Trojans 22-2 and took 14 corner kicks.
Witz, da Silva, Nicassio and Jorgensen were all named to the NCCAA All-Tournament Team. da Silva was named the tournament's most outstanding player, and Nicassio was named the tournament's top offensive player.