2010 Women's Soccer Team


In what capped an undefeated run for the ages, the 2010 Otterbein women's soccer team finished its memorable season with an NCAA Final Four appearance under the bright lights in San Antonio, Texas. The Cardinals, compiling a 20-0-4 record, played their last match against Hardin-Simmons University (Texas) after traveling over 1,300 miles to Blossom Soccer Stadium for the national semifinal.

But let’s take you back for a second. Otterbein's lineup returned almost fully intact from a 2009 season that saw the group lose a double-overtime thriller in the NCAA Sweet 16 to powerhouse Messiah in Baltimore, Md. The team came back with huge goals and expectations, beginning the year ranked No. 10 nationally and opening the schedule with four victories… by an aggregate score of 11-0.

A disappointing 0-0 draw at nearby Denison provided further motivation, as the Cards regrouped to finish the regular season on a 12-match winning streak. Many of those were not easy, however, with three settling 1-0 on goals occurring after the 75th minute.

Despite moving up to No. 3 in the national poll, Otterbein was oddly moving down the regional rankings based on controversial "strength of schedule" perceptions. For whatever reason, an NCAA at-large bid (should the team not win its conference), appeared to be in question.

Nevertheless, the group delivered a pair of 1-0 results in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament (including a walk-off score from senior Tara Smith in overtime of the Final) to make the Big Dance once again. Otterbein then advanced in the regional with a 1-0 victory over Calvin, on a goal from All-American Jenny Knox in the 86th minute, followed by a 2-0 triumph against returning national runner-up Washington University in the second round.

The wild and crazy Sweet 16/Elite 8 weekend took place this time in Dubuque, Iowa at the campus of Loras College. Otterbein found itself down a player vs. the No. 4-ranked (and host) Duhawks after four-year leading scorer Lindsey Rudibaugh received her second yellow card, but rallied to advance in penalty kicks following a scoreless draw.

The Cards played a highly-anticipated rematch against Denison the next day, with Alyssa Hale stepping in for Rudibaugh, and trailed for the first/only time all season. The Big Red scored at the 35:44 mark, but Otterbein countered 38 seconds later on a timely goal from sophomore Rachel Denz. The slugfest eventually found penalty kicks, where senior Tara Carter (the soon-to-be National Goalkeeper of the Year) stepped into the spotlight once more and helped push her team into the Final Four.

The Otterbein/Hardin-Simmons showdown featured a pair of schools with top-five rankings yet very contrasting methods. HSU was the nation's highest-scoring team with over 100 goals on the season. Otterbein, meanwhile, boasted the top defensive unit with just four goals allowed.

Both sides had prime opportunities throughout a match that saw a bit of everything, but all chances came up empty (in one fashion or another) as the match remained scoreless through 110 minutes. Unfortunately, Otterbein's push for a national title came to an end in penalty kicks as Hardin-Simmons emerged on a 4-2 tally. The Cowgirls scored twice in the opening six minutes the next day to beat Messiah for the crown.

Eight seniors (Carter, Knox, Rudibaugh, Rachel Degen, Hannah Fairbanks, Cristen Herold, Tara Smith and Laura Vasbinder) were all multi-year starters that helped the program go 58-4-7 across their last three seasons.

But it was more than just them. Very little is accomplished without Hale and fellow junior Adrienne Novak, the team’s second-leading scorer that year. Nothing happens without the loaded sophomore class, or a talented group of youngsters learning the ropes and pushing behind the scenes. They go nowhere without head coach Brandon Koons and his committed staff.


This special group of 30-plus individuals, together, represents the most decorated season in a program rich with tradition. They furthered a championship culture that was built before them, and one that fans still see today.