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2012 UNCG Women’s Soccer Season In Review

Courtesy: UNCGSpartans.com
         
Release: December 12, 2012
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Despite winning its ninth Southern Conference regular season championship, the UNCG women's soccer team fell short of winning the SoCon Tournament and having the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament during the 2012 season.

Coming into the season, the Spartans were one of the youngest teams in the country with 16 freshmen and were put to the test early with an exhibition match against eventual national champion North Carolina. Four freshmen started, including Jamie Simmons (Houston, Texas/Clear Brook) in net for UNCG. The Spartans' scored on a brilliant goal from sophomore Ashley Stokes (Cary, N.C./Green Hope) and UNCG held on for a rain-shortened 1-0 victory against the Tar Heels.

The regular season began on the road with a tough 1-0 loss in double overtime against SEC foe Georgia. Simmons came up huge in her first collegiate game, making 14 saves and just missed saving the game-winning penalty kick. One week later, UNCG took down No. 7 Wake Forest on the road thanks to a game-winning goal from freshman Chesney White (Franklin, Tenn./Franklin) and Simmons' first career shutout. It marked the highest ranked opponent UNCG has ever defeated.

The Blue and Gold were receiving votes in the NSCAA Top 25 poll after opening the season 2-1 but the Spartans lost two tough games at Kentucky (2-0) and against Louisville (3-0) the following weekend. UNCG bounced back with a 1-0 win against cross-town rival High Point as Stokes scored the game-winning goal.

After a tough trip to California where the Spartans lost to two NCAA Tournament staples in Santa Clara (4-2) and Stanford (4-0), UNCG would begin SoCon play the following weekend.

The Spartans opened SoCon play on the road at Appalachian State and fell behind early 2-0 in the first half. UNCG responded with two unanswered goals to send the game into overtime and senior Tinna Bergthorsdottir (Reykjavik, Iceland/Greensboro College) scored a dramatic game-winning goal in double overtime. With the victory against the Mountaineers, the Spartans earned their 16th-straight SoCon road win.

UNCG returned home and suffered its first loss in conference to Western Carolina, 1-0, but the Blue and Gold answered with another game-winning goal from White against the College of Charleston, 2-1, in overtime just five days later. The overtime victory would spark an impressive run that included a 7-0-1 record and only two goals against.

The senior class proved vital as Lauren Hein (Torrance, Calif./South Torrance)  and Cat Barnekow (Santa Rosa, Calif./Santa Rosa) switched positions moving Hein to forward and Barnekow to center back producing immediate results. Hein scored both goals and the game-winner against The Citadel, while Barnekow was exceptional on defense helping UNCG post six-straight shutouts against Davidson (1-0), Georgia Southern (1-0), at Samford (1-0), at Chattanooga (4-0) and at Elon (2-0).

The game at Samford was a showdown between the top two seeds in the conference,­ and UNCG came away with a tough 1-0 victory thanks to freshman Katherine Rodriguez (Franklin, Tenn./Franklin) who scored her second-straight game-winning goal. Rodriguez started at forward for the second-straight game and was a key part of the successful season for the Spartans.

UNCG would save its best performance for last, taking down in-state rival Elon, 2-0, on the road to clinch the SoCon regular season title. Simmons completed the conference season with an impressive 0.52 goals against average, a 9-1-1 record and six shutouts.  

The Spartans entered the league tournament as the No. 1 seed, earning a date with eighth-seeded Georgia Southern, who they defeated 1-0 earlier in the season at home. The game remained scoreless until the 89th minute when the Eagles found a breakaway and just barely beat Simmons to shock UNCG, 1-0.

Even after a tough first-round exit, the UNCG women's soccer team has plenty of bright spots heading into the 2013 season thanks to its freshman class. Simmons, White and Rodriguez were all honored on the SoCon all-freshman team. Simmons also made second team All-SoCon after leading the conference in multiple categories.

UNCG led the conference with a final RPI of 75 and had a league best seven players make all-conference teams. Simmons cemented herself in the UNCG single-season record books with the fourth-highest amount of saves with 97, seventh-best in shutouts with eight and eighth-best in goalkeeper minutes at 1,795. Barnekow finished fifth all-time with 23 career assists.

Two Spartans were rewarded for their fantastic seasons as Barnekow was invited to play with the Filipino women's national team, while Simmons got an invite to the USA national goalkeeping camp, both held in California. Barnekow made quite the impression, making the team and helped win the 2012 Vikings Cup.  

The Spartans finished the SoCon season with an impressive streak of 21-straight wins on the road and should have all the pieces in place to continue their rein as the top team in the conference.

 - UNCG -

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