Pair of second-half goals leads UNCG past Western Carolina, 2-0
CULLOWHEE, N.C. – UNCG scored a pair of goals less than five minutes apart in the second half to pick up a 2-0 win over Western Carolina on Friday, securing a top-four finish in the Southern Conference standings and first-round hosting duties in the upcoming league tournament.
In a return to the site where the Spartans won last season's SoCon tournament, Ashley Stokes and Kaytee O'Brien scored within 4:19 of each other to break open a scoreless game and put UNCG (8-7-1, 7-1-1 SoCon) over .500 for the first time on the season.
"The first half, we didn't have very much rhythm," UNCG coach Steve Nugent said. "We created some good opportunities off of some individual efforts, but, as a team, I don't think we played our best soccer in the first 45 minutes. After the halftime adjustments, we very much controlled the pace of the game. We found our rhythm, we started creating some really good scoring chances, and we were lucky enough to put two in the back of the net in the second half."
Stokes picked up her second game-winning goal of the season at the 59:33 mark, converting a Kristin Player pass for her third goal of the year.
O'Brien followed suit just moments later, scoring off a Player free kick for her second goal of the season and making it a two-goal spread.
Player's pair of assists on the evening pushed her SoCon-best total to nine on the season, extending her career high. With 23 points on the year, she is just two back of the career high she set as a freshman in 2007. She also moved from seventh to fifth in career assists for UNCG, as she now has 24 to her credit.
UNCG keeper Kelsey Kearney made five saves for her second straight clean sheet. With three shutouts this season, Kearney has extended her own school record to 34 for her career and needs just three more to become the SoCon's career leader.
Kearney also became UNCG's all-time leader in minutes played in the contest. She now has logged 6,743:23 in goal for the Spartans, passing Kathryn Clewley for UNCG's career mark.
The Catamounts (8-8-1, 3-6-0 SoCon) outshot UNCG 13-8 on the evening and had four corner kicks to the Spartans' four. Laura Greb and Katie Salmons had three shots each to lead Western Carolina.
Both sides had shots hit the crossbar in the opening half. Lauren Hein drew iron in the 26th minute, while Greb did the same 34th.
Kearney made three of her saves in the final 10 minutes as the Catamounts tried to rally, but she stuffed a shot by Grebs in the 82nd minute and attempts by Salmons in the 83rd and 90th minutes.
The win, which pushed the Spartans' unbeaten streak to seven matches (6-0-1), and the other results around the league Friday (Furman's tie with College of Charleston and Samford's win over Davidson) assured that UNCG can finish no worse than third in the league standings,, meaning that UNCG is guaranteed to host a first-round SoCon tournament game on Oct. 30.
UNCG returns home for its final two regular-season contests of the season, starting with its annual pink game for cancer awareness against Appalachian State on Sunday. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at the UNCG Soccer Stadium.
UNCG 2, Western Carolina 0
Goals by period 1 2 Tot
UNCG................ 0 2 - 2
Western Carolina.... 0 0 - 0
1. 59:33 UNCG Ashley Stokes (3) (Kristin Player)
2. 63:52 UNCG Kaytee O'Brien (2) (Kristin Player)
Shots: UNCG 8, Western Carolina 13; Saves: UNCG 5 (Kelsey Kearney 5), Western Carolina 3 (Katie Jacobs 3); Corner kicks: UNCG 2, Western Carolina 4; Fouls: UNCG 3, Western Carolina 6.
- UNCG -