‘Some unbelievable grit.’ A Kentucky school wins NAIA women’s soccer title in a shootout.

A national championship is coming home to Kentucky courtesy of the University of the Cumberlands women’s soccer team.

The Patriots, based about two hours south of Lexington in Williamsburg, beat previously undefeated William Carey University of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on Tuesday to capture the program’s first NAIA championship.

Cumberlands (18-1-3) swept four matches in eight days at Foley, Alabama, to claim the title from the 40-team national bracket.

The No. 3-seed Patriots and No. 1 William Carey (24-1) completed regulation and overtime deadlocked at 1-1 Tuesday. Then Cumberlands won the match 3-2 in a penalty kick shootout.

Laura Bosca gave Cumberlands a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute, and Virginia Mesa equalized for William Carey in the 86th.

Cumberlands junior goalkeeper Georgia Martell kept the Patriots in the match by making 18 saves in 110 minutes of regulation and overtime in the face of 37 shots by William Carey, including 19 on goal.

“Credit to the group. We really held them out,” Martell said. “I’m not sure any teams kept them to one goal this season. This is really incredible by the team.”

William Carey was a goal-scoring juggernaut in 2023, averaging six goals per game. The Crusaders won two matches by 1-0 scores but scored more than one in every other match until Tuesday. The Patriots allowed only 18 goals in 21 matches prior to Tuesday and shut out 10 of their opponents.

Cumberlands took only six shots Tuesday, including three on goal prior to penalty kicks.

“A lot of defending and some unbelievable grit,” head coach Steve Hamilton said afterward, explaining how his team overcame such a large deficit in scoring opportunities.

Sophomore midfielder Carola Fontan, junior defender Sarah Hammerstone and freshman midfielder Samantha Sokolove converted their penalty kicks to provide the margin of victory for Cumberlands.

Hamilton made the unusual decision to switch goalkeepers for the penalty kick shootout, going with junior Laura Vogt.

“We’ve known all year long she’s the best goalkeeper in the country in terms of making PK saves,” Hamilton said of Vogt, who played in 10 games this season and started eight. “Unbelievable. She came up huge time and time again. I’m just so proud of her and the rest of the group.”

Vogt said she planned to be ready whether or not her number was called in the championship match.

“I was just ready for this from the beginning. I knew this was going to be my role if it would go to a PK shootout,” she said. “So, I just tried to help my team — especially Georgia, for doing the work ahead.”

Fontan, junior center back Rita Aguye and junior forward Jayden Boelter (Conner High School) were named to the NAIA All-Tournament Team

Cumberlands did not allow a goal in its five NAIA Tournament matches. The Patriots beat Northwestern (Ohio) 2-0 at Williamsburg on Nov. 18. Then the tournament shifted to Alabama for the remainder of the matches. Cumberlands topped Ottawa (Arizona) 2-0 on Nov. 28, Hope International (California) 2-0 on Nov. 30 and Spring Arbor (Michigan) 2-0 on Dec. 4. before Tuesday’s win.

Cumberlands won the Mid-South Conference regular season before suffering its only loss this season, 2-0 to Cumberland (Tennessee) in the championship match of the MSC Tournament.

Cumberlands was the only school from Kentucky to qualify for the NAIA national tournament.