Lee News

We Got Four, but There Could Be More

Lee’s women’s soccer pulled off a first when it comes to NAIA history on Saturday evening in Decatur, Ala. and it certainly might not be the last for the program coach Matt Yelton has assembled over the past 10 years.

In winning four consecutive national championships, the Lady Flames and Yelton have recorded it in a style that is usually reserved for legends like coach John Wooden and his UCLA basketball dynasty.

Over the past four years Lee’s women have established a remarkable record of 90-7-3. Included among the many accomplishments are four national crowns, 15 straight national tournament victories, 10 conference tournament titles, nine conference regular season championships, and eight straight trips to the NAIA National Championships. Since joining the Southern States Athletic Conference, Lee is 66-0-1.

Oh, what a run! Maybe senior Achten said it best, “We got four! We got four!” But wait a minute; it could be far from over.

The 2011 squad has only two seniors on the roster. Of course Jamie Achten is one of the two. The three-time All-American and likely NAIA National Player of the Year will be missed. A second look at the roster, however, shows seven juniors and at least 10 sophomores who will be ready to go after a fifth crown next December.

Among those are Ashley Aragona, who was named the MVP of the 2011 NAIA Championship, and Leah Fortune was the tourney’s best offensive player. One of the nation’s best goalkeepers, Leah Wilson, is back and so are defenders Clair Lanter and Kim Conrad. Also joining that list is one of the NAIA’s fastest runners, Ode Fulutudilu, and Caroline Scales and Laura Thacker, just to name a few.

Yelton is proud of his team and the way they have taken care of business on the playing field, but he also recruits a group of athletes that excel in the classroom. Achten was recently selected as the COSIA (Sports Information Directors) Scholar Athlete of the Year. Many other team members have been listed as SSAC and NAIA Scholars over the past four years.

After Saturday’s championship win and earlier in the week picking up his 200th coaching win at Lee, Yelton shared a few thoughts.

“I really don’t know if words can express what I feel. To be in this spot (four championships) and do something that nobody has ever done; I didn’t do it, my team did it. It’s just such a unique occasion that it’s hard to describe the achievement in and of itself. We’ve worked really hard. Our kids are a special group of kids; they do things with character. They’re players that embrace whatever life throws at them and make the most of it. It’s hard to describe this feeling, but it’s something that I’ll never forget.”

Yelton praises Aragona’s effort. “What she did tonight was probably one of the gutsiest performances I’ve ever witnessed as a coach. She was hobbling up and down the halls all night and she could barely walk. Then she comes out and had a hand in all three goals. Not just that, but the effort she put into it.”

Achten called “fantastic” by Yelton. “She’s a fantastic soccer player, but she is an amazing individual. Next year, without her, we will have to try and pick up the pieces. I don’t know that I’ll have a player that has done what she’s done and done it in the way that she has, which is the right way.”

Achten shared her feelings after helping her team win four straight NAIA titles. “I’m so overwhelmed. God has been so faithful and my team has been 100 percent supportive. My coach has believed in me since freshman year. It’s so overwhelming, I can’t even believe it.”

(Winning four straight) “It’s absolutely incredible. I feel so worn out and so tired, but God had so much grace on me and the team. We worked our butts off every single day with that goal in mind. Ever since freshman year when we first won, it was always like, we can do more; we could win all four and it actually happened. I can’t even believe it.

“I couldn’t have done it without my coach and my team,” Achten continues. “Coach prepared us 100 percent from day one. It was one of those things that when you set a goal out and you are thinking about it every single day, and then when you get to this point, you can’t help but give your whole heart and hope for the best.”

(Going out on top) “From the beginning, we don’t talk about nationals. We take it game by game. When you get to this place though, you can’t help but think about it. Even just winning the one for our freshmen that just came in, that was more of a motivation for me than anything because I know how much it meant to me, plus, all of the transfers, I just wanted to win it for everybody so much.”
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