Hart alumna wins NCAA soccer championship 

Jensen Shrout. Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Shrout.

Hart High alumna Jensen Shrout and Point Loma Sea Lions women’s soccer had one of the most remarkable NCAA Division 2 women’s soccer tournaments in recent years. 

The Sea Lions brought home the NCAA championship on Saturday, after defeating the Washburn Ichabods, 1-0, marking their fifth straight clean sheet of the tournament. 

It was the biggest game of Shrout’s career but the center back felt confident in her team’s ability heading into the championship bout at the Sportsplex at Matthews in North Carolina. 

“It was pretty nerve wracking,” Shrout said in a phone interview. “I’ve never played in that kind of game my whole life. But we talked about this game all season. There was something about this particular team, we were so close and our connection off the field reflected on the field. No one wanted to lose because not only would we be done with soccer, we wouldn’t be hanging out every day.” 

The Hart alumna believed the game started with a bit of chaos, as both teams clambered to gain possession of the ball. However, after about 25 minutes in, Shrout saw her team winning the possession battle. 

Just when things were starting to pick up, Shrout was forced to exit the game late in the first half. The center back took a hard hit to her leg, breaking her tibia. It was a numbing moment as the Hart alumna was forced to exit, but Shrout knew her team could still prevail. 

“I was pretty bummed,” Shrout said. “My only thoughts, other than the pain, were just ‘I don’t want to leave this game. I want to win so badly.’ It was hard to leave my teammates on the field. We had done so much to get there but I had confidence that they could still get it done. To be a part of it was hard but exciting, so joyful and prideful at the same time.” 

The Sea Lions found their golden goal in the second half, when midfielder Grace Nelson fired in a corner kick that found center back Emma Thrapp, who headered in the score into the far post. 

The 2023 NCAA Division 2 women’s soccer national champion Point Loma Sea Lions. Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Shrout.

Point Loma held on to win and finished the tournament with its fifth straight clean sheet. The Sea Lions finished the tournament with seven goals scored to none conceded and also capped off the championship year with 11 straight wins. While the defenders and goalkeeper Julia Pinnell will happily take the credit for this feat, Shrout saw her whole team play sensational defense. 

“We have a great back line, the four of us are very close,” Shrout said. “We all have very unique abilities that complement each other well. Our forwards and midfielders played the biggest role not allowing the ball to get to us. Everyone on the field was a defender. It was a team effort. Our defense in general was really good this year and we made shutouts our priority. These games are decided by one goal, so we aimed to allow no goals.” 

Shrout, a junior, started in nearly every match this season and was a key factor in the team’s 13 shutouts on the year. 

The tournament was extra special for Point Loma, as the team enacted a “revenge tour” en route to the championship match. The Sea Lions’ paths crossed with Concordia and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, two of the three teams that beat Point Loma earlier in the year. 

Loma took down conference rival Concordia, 2-0, in their first game of the tournament before besting UCCS in the quarterfinals, 1-0. Concordia was the only team to hold Point Loma scoreless this season and the Sea Lions returned the favor when it mattered most. 

“We called this our revenge tour,” Shrout said. “The first (Concordia match) was intense and we were not prepared to lose to them. Then we beat another team and the revenge tour continued. 

We went in the mentality that they beat us once, they’re not going to beat us again. It was exciting to avenge two of the three losses we had this season.” 

The national championship was the first in school history for PLNU. The program had gotten close in years past but was turned away in the second round in three of the last four tournaments. The national title was on the team’s mind all season but the Sea Lions felt their backs up against the wall in October, after a road conference loss to Chaminade of Hawaii. 

“We shouldn’t have lost to Chaminade. We didn’t expect it to be too hard but we went there and lost,” Shrout said. “After that game, we had five more games in conference. It was win or there’s no shot at postseason. We all talked and said we all have to want this to continue. We had a turning point and we made the decision to fight and get better. That loss made us better and stronger. It was a really hard loss but we needed motivation to push us through for the rest of the season. I’m not sure what would’ve happened if we won that game.” 

PLNU finished the year with 51 goals scored to just 11 conceded. The team went 17-3-1, and at times, did just about everything right. What made this team so great was still hard to pinpoint for Shrout. 

“This is my third year here and there was something super special about this team,” Shrout said. “We could never put our finger on what it was but it might’ve been that our bond was so strong, we were all best friends. Our connections were so strong and it translated so well onto the field. We work and fight for each other. We pass the ball and if I have the ball everyone is getting into a position to help me move the ball or find the hole.” 

An extra special part of the junior’s conference championship run was a road contest at Biola. 

Biola is coached by current Hart coach Brett Croft and former Indians coach Guilherme Mitrovitch. Croft has known Shrout for years and was an assistant coach under Mitrovitch during Shrout’s four-year varsity career at Hart. 

“(Shrout) started at center back as a true freshman at Hart,” Croft said in a phone interview. “Point Loma’s run and coaching was phenomenal, and they play a similar style as we do at Hart. Jensen was a key piece to their backline. She’s a tenacious defender and amazing player. I couldn’t be prouder. What a great kid for this to happen to. She’s not just a great player but has everything a coach wants in a player.” 

Shrout helped PLNU win 2-0 over Biola, but her coaches never stopped supporting her. Croft and Mitrovitch constantly kept in contact throughout the postseason run, sharing their support. 

The future will always look bright after winning a national championship but Point Loma will lose only one player next season. Shrout is excited for the future of the PLNU program. The Sea Lions know it will be another mountain to climb but with the team at hand, Point Loma may have the makings of another title run. 

“Besides losing one senior, we’re all coming back and losing just one of 11 starters,” Shrout said. “We have so much talent all around on the team, so the goal is to do it again. Just make another run, work hard and maybe get another natty ring.” 

Shrout and the team will continue training. The center back will have at least one more year of eligibility before hanging it up on her collegiate playing career.  

“She is no doubt a legend of Hart soccer,” Croft said. “She is one of the best defenders to ever come through Hart.” 

Jensen Shrout. Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Shrout.

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