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TCU Soccer’s season ends in the Sweet 16

The Frogs finished the season with a 19-2-3 record.

Photo courtesy of @TCUSoccer on Twitter

After falling to Rutgers in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship Tournament, TCU Soccer’s 2021 season has come to an end.

The Frogs battled hard, giving the 1-seed and hosts a run for their money all the way up until the final whistle and final penalty kick of the game-deciding shootout.

Although it’s always heartbreaking seeing a season end like this, this group has absolutely nothing to hang their heads for. A Sweet 16 appearance is an accomplishment within itself, but these girls went through some adversity to make it this far.

First, in the Big 12 Tournament, the Frogs snuck by an Iowa State team on Penalty Kicks and capped it off with a come-from-behind win over Texas in the championship game. Now, in the NCAA tournament, the Frogs made multiple comeback efforts, including two equalizing goals against Princeton in round two and an 85th minute equalizer against Rutgers in round three to stay alive.

Penalty Kick shootouts, come-from-behind wins, late game drama; the 2021 season had it all.

Traveling to Jersey and taking on a top-5 Rutgers team may have been the toughest task of the season, but the Frogs showed up when it mattered most.

From the opening kickoff, TCU was on the front foot. The Frogs were spreading the field, taking their time to pick out passes, and firing at will anytime they got in scoring range.

Because of this offensive ferociousness, the Frogs led the first half shot count 9-3. The only downside is none of the Frogs’ nine shots went in, but the Scarlet Knights were able to convert on their third shot of the ballgame on a counter attack.

Sometimes it’s just one of those games, and as head coach Eric Bell described it; the soccer gods weren’t with TCU on Sunday.

Being down 1-0 at halftime in a win or go home game isn’t anything new for the Frogs. As I mentioned previously, this team has battled through adversity all year and weren’t going to back down from a challenge at this stage of the season.

With their backs against the wall, TCU came out and played a hell of a second half. From top to bottom, everyone was contributing and making plays, desperately trying to find that equalizer.

After seven second half shots and an astounding six second half saves by Lauren Kellett, the Frogs found the back of the net just in the nick of time.

In the 85th minute, Camryn Lancaster leveled the score at one a piece off the Gracie Brian cross. The freshmen forward has been a key piece all season, but for Lancaster to step up in this moment and make a play of this caliber, there are no words to describe how special that is.

There was a sigh of relief on the sidelines and I’m sure from the viewers at home as well, but there was still more soccer left to be played.

Regular time wouldn’t be enough to settle things, and neither would two periods of overtime. Both teams had multiple quality chances on goal, but neither side could find the back of the net.

It was a back-and-forth twenty minutes of OT, but it all came down to penalty kicks.

Before Sunday’s contest, the Frogs were 6-2 all-time in PK shootouts under coach Bell and were coming off a recent win in PKs just a few weeks earlier in the Big 12 tournament.

The confidence was there, but again, sometimes things just don’t go your way. After four makes from both teams in the first four rounds of shots, the Rutgers keeper went on to make THREE back-to-back-to-back saves.

Lauren Kellett had her back against the wall for three straight rounds, and after making two incredible clutch saves, Rutgers converted their shot in the seventh round to advance 5-4 on PKs.

“I’m really proud of our group and what they were able to do throughout the course of the season,” said Bell. “I’m really proud of our seniors for doing what they did, coming to TCU in 2018 when we were still trying to build our brand and get us to a point where we are recognized as a nationally prominent program. Our group represented TCU and Fort Worth very well. The future is still bright. Come next semester, we will get the band back together and try and do it all over again.”

Beautifully said by the man that pioneered yet another tremendous season for this program. Six straight tournament appearances, a trip to the Elite 8 last year, and a trip to the Sweet 16 this year; this group is going to be a-okay.

With the way recruiting has heated up in the past few seasons, I wouldn’t be surprised if this team found a way to somehow get better in the offseason.

Until then, Go Frogs.