NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Potentially playing in the final game of her career, Mor Efraim made sure she extended the season at least one more match as the senior notched a hat trick and guided No. 10 Martin Methodist to a 6-2 victory over No. 20 Rocky Mountain College in the Unaffiliated Frontier/TranSouth title game Saturday afternoon.
Entering Saturday's tilt needing a win to ensure a ninth straight berth in the NAIA National Championships, the RedHawks (15-3) fell behind early after Mandi Achten's second-minute goal gave the Battlin' Bears (14-2-2) an early 1-0 victory.
Jennifer Loewen would pull the RedHawks level 11 minutes later when the junior took a pass from Efraim from just inside the box and slipped it into the bottom-left corner of the net.
With an assist under her belt, Efraim would then strike for two first-half goals of her own to put the RedHawks ahead for good.
After settling a pass from Heather Holley in the 23rd minute, Efraim dribbled past a defender and dodged another before firing a right-footed blast that gave the RedHawks a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.
Efraim would strike again in the first half, capitalizing on a bobbled save attempt from Battlin' Bears goalkeeper Malin Johansson in the 31st minute. After settling the ball, Efraim lined up a shot from just over six yards away and sent it through to put the RedHawks in front 3-1.
The RedHawks would cap the first-half scoring just seven minutes later when Laura Graham headed a Maria Gamboa cross beyond the outstretched arms of backup goalkeeper Shauna Ketcham, who was subbed on after Johansson was shown a red card just one minute prior.
In the second half, the RedHawks would strike for two more goals – one of which was a Battlin' Bears own goal.
Efraim would complete her hat trick in the match's 77th minute when she rolled a shot in from 15 yards out that sent a vocal RedHawks crowd into a frenzy.
"This was such a great win for our team against yet another quality opponent," RedHawks head coach Tyson John said. "I was proud of our girls for not giving up early. Mor was absolutely fantastic tonight, but everyone else stepped their game up around her. This was a great team win."
As a team, the RedHawks rebounded from the shaky start to outshoot the Battlin' Bears 15-8. The RedHawks enjoyed a 9-4 shot advantage in the first half and outshot the Frontier Conference champs 6-4 over the match's final 45 minutes.
Defensively, the RedHawks held Battlin' Bears forward Kirsty Montignani to just one shot on goal – a left-footed laser that made the score 6-2 with just seconds left to play.
After bobbling an early save attempt that led to the first RMC goal, RedHawks goalkeeper Meaghan Storie settled down and made two big saves, including an impressive one-on-one effort against Achten late in the first half, to pick up her 15th win of the season.
With the victory, the RedHawks clinched their ninth consecutive berth in the NAIA Women's Soccer National Championships. The RedHawks will most likely host a still-to-be-determined opponent in next Saturday's Opening Round Game.
Full details on Saturday's Opening Round match will be announced Sunday on GoRedHawks.com.