The Lee Lady Flames have claimed a record fourth straight NAIA national title and have won their last 20 starts in national championship competition, including four consecutive opening round wins. The last national tournament defeat came in the semifinal round of the 2007 tourney, a 2-0 loss to Martin Methodist.
On the other hand, it is a whole new ballgame for the Montreat College Cavaliers. After winning the Appalachian Athletic Conference title this past week, Montreat will bring a 14-4-3 record into the opening round match Saturday afternoon against the 18-1-1 Lady Flames, beginning at 2 p.m. at the Lee Soccer Field.
Coach Courtney Nash has done an outstanding job of turning the program around. The Cavs were only 1-14-1 two seasons ago.
Montreat opened the 2012 season with a defeat to Northwood (Fla.), but rattled off nine wins and two ties before losing to D-II Francis Marion University. Union College and Warren Wilson also shut out the Cavaliers to extend the losing streak to three. Since the Warren Wilson defeat, Montreat has walked off the field victorious five times, with one tie mixed in.
After losing to Embry-Riddle (Fla.) in the second match of the season on Sept. 9, Lee ran off 10 straight victories before an Oct. 18 1-1 tie with Emory University (Ga.), ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division III at that time.
Since then, coach Matt Yelton’s team has run off six more decisions. Sparked by the defense, the Lady Flames have registered 12 shutouts and have only allowed one goal in the last three matches.
“We are looking forward to opening up our national tournament play at home on Saturday with a game against a very good Montreat team,” said Yelton after a Thursday team workout. “They have had a very successful season and we believe we will have to be at our very best to have the opportunity to advance forward to Orange Beach (Ala.).”
Yelton added: “At this point in the season it really is a one-game season and every game demands maximum effort or your season is over. Even though we have been successful in the past that means nothing [in terms of this] Saturday, and we have to approach every game with the right mentality.”
The coach praised the support shown his club: “The local community has been great about supporting us all year long, and we hope that a very good crowd will come out and support us on Saturday.”
Opening Round matches will be played across the nation on Saturday and the 15 winners will join the host team, University of Mobile, beginning play in Orange Beach on Monday (Nov. 26). If the No. 1 seeded Lady Flames defeat Montreat, they will face the winner of Westmont (Calif.) and Northwood (Fla.) on the 26th at 5 p.m. EST.
But Lee athletic director Larry Carpenter is pushing for a large crowd for Saturday’s Opening Round match Championship and this is the first of five matches in a possible title run. Carpenter is offering a bargain for your late lunch at the field. “We will have slices of pizza and soft drinks for 25 cents each, so let’s show our school spirit by wearing our school colors as they play in their last NAIA National Tournament.”