Courtesy of
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Before the 2014 season, the Howard women’s soccer team was a program without a home. The Bison played the 2013 season as an independent after reaching the championship game of the now-defunct Great West Conference in 2012.

Fast forward to 2015, and the Bison have made history in their new conference.

Howard, the No. 4 seed in this year’s SWAC Tournament, defeated No. 3 seed Alabama State, 2-1, to claim its second championship in as many seasons in the league. The Bison are the first SWAC school to win back-to-back championships in women’s soccer.

More importantly, the victory secures Howard’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship after the Bison won the championship in 2014 without the ability to accept the SWAC’s automatic bid.

Howard (13-7-2) wasted little time setting the tone of the match. Freshman midfielder Anna Mitchell put the Bison on the board 48 seconds into the match after taking a pass from sophomore forward/midfielder Whitney White and looping a chip shot over the head of Alabama State goalkeeper Gianna Guyot.

As expected with a championship on the line, Alabama State (9-11-1) would not go quietly. The Lady Hornets would tie the match at 1-1 in the 36th minute, but not because of their two star players, Aaliyah & Ariela Lewis. ASU’s Shyann Cordova took a free kick from near the left sideline and set up teammate Shelbi Vienna-Hallam’s equalizing header.

The score would remain deadlocked at 1-1 at halftime. Howard continued to put offensive pressure on Alabama State to begin the second half, getting off four shots and two corner kicks in the first 12 minutes (compared to two shots and one corner for Alabama State). The final shot of that sequence was a long distance attempt from White that carromed off the crossbar.

A minute and a half later, the Bison would set up the play that would eventually rewrite program history.

In the 58th minute, Howard’s co-captains – senior midfielder Dytria Ruddy and junior midfielder Sara Vaughan – connected on a play similar to the one Alabama State tied the match on. Ruddy sent a ball from the left side of the field to the far side post, where Vaughan stood unchecked. Vaughan headed home the wide open score and sparked a jubilant celebration amongst her teammates.

Howard held a 14-7 advantage in shots after the Vaughan goal and continued to outshoot Alabama State at a 2-to-1 pace the rest of the game, finishing the contest with 20-10 edge in shots and an eight to four advantage in corner kicks.

As strong as the Bison played offensively, their defensive performance – particularly against the Lewis sisters – was equally as impressive. Ariela (4) and Aaliyah (3) took seven of ASU’s ten shots, with six of the shots on goal. However, all six were saved by freshman goalkeeper Mackenzie Diotte and none were taken without the influence of a swarming Bison backline.

Howard’s efforts broke a nine-game streak of at least one of the Lewis sisters scoring a goal.

Their efforts also set a new standard for Bison women’s soccer, and extended its season farther than it has ever been.


  • Five Howard players were named to the 2015 SWAC All-Tournament Team: Ruddy, Vaughan, Diotte and freshmen defenders Kendall Hamilton & Zakiya Muhammad.
  • Ruddy was named the SWAC Tournament MVP. The senior started every game and had the championship-clinching assist on Vaughan’s goal. She holds the distinction of being the only player to compete in all three of Howard’s conference championship games (2012 Great West, 2014 SWAC).
  • For the second straight season, Head Coach Brent Leiba was named SWAC Coach of the Year. The Bison’s seventh-year leader has guided Howard to back-to-back 13-win seasons (school record), its two SWAC titles and the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance.


Howard will learn its first-round NCAA opponent on Monday, Nov. 9 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern during the NCAA Selection Show. The show will be broadcast on

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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