Jimmies upset Chargers, advance to GPAC title match

Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun, N.D.
·5 min read

Apr. 7—UPDATED 10:45 P.M. 4/6/21: The University of Jamestown women's soccer team will be traveling to play Concordia University in the GPAC tournament championship this Friday (March 9) at 7 p.m. in Seward, Nebraska. Concordia defeated Midland 5-4 in penalties kicks Tuesday.

Autumn Opperud began her college women's soccer career on defense, was shifted forward to winger last fall, and is now the hottest striker for the University of Jamestown Jimmies.

Opperud's second goal in as many matches has launched the Jimmies into this weeks' Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament championship. The junior from Huntington Beach, California, found the mesh in the 31st minute Tuesday in Sioux City, Iowa, lifting the Jimmies to a 1-0 upset victory over 18th-ranked Briar Cliff University in the GPAC semifinals.

Opperud also scored UJ's first goal last Saturday in Hastings, Nebraska, tying the Jimmies and Broncos at 1-1 in an eventual 2-1 UJ quarterfinal victory.

"She's been running fantastic," said UJ women's soccer coach Nick Becker. "Super sub coming in (and) scoring two goals. I think she understands her role very well and she's composed in front of the net, so we want to find her more."

The Jimmies would've hosted the GPAC title game on Friday had Midland (7-6-3) upset Concordia University (11-6-1) Tuesday night in Seward, Nebraska. Concordia, however, edged the Warriors 5-4 in penalty kicks after neither team tallied a goal in regulation or at the conclusion of two periods of overtime.

Friday's title match between the Jimmies and the Bulldogs will begin at 7 p.m. in Seward, Nebraska.

Opperud settled in with running mate Kalese Sunamoto at the striker positions on Tuesday in Becker's newly-installed 4-4-2 diamond formation, along with playmaker Kamryn Fiscus.

Sunamoto took a feed from Fiscus and found a wide-open Opperud, who fired home the game-winner from the top-right of the penalty area to beat Briar Cliff goalie Ruby Campa.

Opperud's boot crossed the goal area and easily tucked inside the far post to stretch the net. It was only the sixth goal the Chargers have allowed this season.

"She didn't hold back on that one, that's for sure," Becker said.

Opperud said her opportunities have been a direct result of the Jimmies' new look on the pitch. The tally was just her third of the season.

"The three of us in that little triangle, I was just going to try to connect with that and see if I could get in any balls behind, or if I could even play those balls behind," Opperud said. "Now that I'm a 9 (striker), I feel more confident in taking a touch and shooting instead of looking for that cross instead."

Prior to the match, Becker said if UJ's defense could hold back Briar Cliff's attack he was confident the Jimmies could find enough offense to advance.

UJ goalkeeper Alex Nowka was tasked with making two saves in the shutout, as UJ's defensive backs helped the orange and black outshoot the Chargers 4-2 on goal and 9-5 overall.

Helping matters for the visitors, Briar Cliff's leading goal-scorer — senior Flor Suarez (15 goals) — was injured during BC's quarterfinal win over Dordt last Saturday and was unable to suit up to face the Jimmies.

"I think the backline definitely did a good job of just being tough and being strong," Becker said. "A couple mental mistakes, but when we made a mental mistake it was like another player was willing to step up.

"Typically, it's two or three mistakes (that) lead to a goal, and so I think we kinda helped our teammates all battle back a little bit there, too."

Briar Cliff has already earned an invite to this month's NAIA national tournament opening round having won the GPAC regular-season title. The Jimmies will be battling for the conference's second automatic berth to nationals along with the GPAC tournament title hardware on Friday.

The NAIA women's soccer national tournament opening-round matches will be held April 15-16. Final site play is scheduled to begin April 27 in Foley, Alabama.

On the doorstep to the national tournament for the first time since 2005, Becker said the Jimmies will need to remain focused this week. The Jimmies fell 2-1 in overtime to the Bulldogs in Nebraska back on Oct. 10.

"It's the first time we've been in this situation in this conference," Becker said. "But we weren't good in the last 10-15 minutes of the game, so we gotta make sure that we buckle back down, go over some basics on Wednesday and hopefully come up with a game plan on Thursday to beat (Concordia)."

University of Jamestown 1, (18) Briar Cliff University 0

UJ 1 0 — 0

BC 0 0 — 0

SCORING

First half

1. UJ, Autumn Opperud (Kalese Sunamoto), 31st minute.

Second half.

No scoring

Goalkeeper saves: UJ, Alex Nowka 2-0—2. BC, Ruby Campa 2-0—2.

Yellow cards: UJ, Nowka 86th.

Records: Jamestown 13-7. Briar Cliff 12-2-2.

Women's Soccer Postseason Tournament

(Tournament seeding/records in parentheses)

April 3

Quarterfinal Round

(1) Briar Cliff 4, (8) Dordt 1

(5) Jamestown 2, (4) Hastings 1

(7) Midland 1, (2) Morningside 0

(3) Concordia 2, (6) Dakota Wesleyan 1

April 6

Semifinal Round

Jamestown 1, Briar Cliff 0

Concordia 0, Midland 0 (2OT) Concordia advances on PKs, 5-4.

April 9

GPAC Postseason Championship

Jamestown (13-7) at Concordia (11-6-1), 7 p.m.