GREENSBORO, N.C. - In search of its third straight Southern Conference tournament title, No. 3 UNCG women's soccer was forced to grab a quarterfinal win against visiting No. 6 Chattanooga in penalties on Sunday, beating the Mocs 4-2 in the shootout. Both sides were able to find the back of the net during regulation on the way to taking a 1-1 score into the resulting PKs, while Isabelle Blomdahl, Kaley Tucker, Gabi Santora and Marissa Ferrantino all converted on their spot kick opportunities.
"I'm shaking a little bit honestly, a little bit because it's cold outside, but the rest is just pure adrenaline," said Ferrantino, the provider of her team's match-deciding penalty. "It feels fantastic to get the win."
"I think we handled [the physicality] tonight very well," said Coll. "I thought it got a little too physical of a game in my opinion, and our players kept their cool. They didn't get into any gritty yellow cards, so they've got to be commended for that... I want to say that [Chattanooga Head] Coach McKinney has turned the Chattanooga team into a fantastic program since he took over five years ago."
With the two sides combining for 18 shots in the opening 45 minutes, it would be the Spartans to break the scoreless tie late in the first half, with junior defender Sophie Stewart-Hobbs putting her team on the board in the 42nd minute.
With time ticking down toward the break, Stewart-Hobbs would put away her second of the year on a pull back pass from Maddy Gilhool. Receiving the ball inside the left side of the 18, Gilhool drew three UTC defenders before taking a touch toward the endline and delivering the ball to Stewart-Hobbs at the top of the six-yard box. The junior defender took her teammate's pass first touch, banging her strike off the crossbar before it crossed the line for the go ahead tally.
Holding onto a 1-0 lead out of the break, the Spartans created multiple chances to double their lead, with freshman Gabi Santora twice coming within inches of finding her team's second goal of the night, on a pair of direct free kicks.
It would be Chattanooga's set piece opportunity in the 90th that would be the next to find the back of the net however, with the Mocs delivering the match-tying tally with just 46 seconds remaining in regulation.
With so little time to go back in front, UNCG was forced to their second overtime contest in the 2019 season, getting the bulk of the chances made available in extra time. Santora put fans on the edge of their seats during the 94th with a shot from 30 yards out that glanced off the inside of the right crossbar. The first-year's attempt would go wanting in the end however, as the two squads advanced onward to penalties.
The Spartans were a perfect 4-for-4 from the spot during the game-deciding shootout, going ahead 3-1 in the early rounds, thanks to a save from keeper Abby Buchholz and a missed attempt from the Mocs. While the visiting side was able to score their second PK in the fourth round, defender Marissa Ferrantino delivered the calm and collected finish to give her team the 4-2 shootout victory and ultimately advance her side to this year's SoCon semifinals.
"We're motivated to keep going," said Ferrantino. "Next time we need to take care of it during the play of the game, but we're motivated to keep going all the way."
"We were very confident in our shooting five," said Head Coach Michael Coll. "They're very good in the PKs. We expected to win when it got to penalty kicks, although you never really know because it's such a tough way to end a soccer match. But they're very good at them. They were all textbook examples of perfect penalties."
Three Things To Know
-- In a match that saw a total of 20 shots on goal, Buchholz came up with seven stops on the evening, in addition to her shootout save at the end of the match
-- Tonight's contest was the fifth time in program history the Spartans have been forced to penalties in a Southern Conference tournament match, they hold a record of 3-2 when put in those situations
-- The Spartans will host the remainder of the SoCon tournament at UNCG Soccer Stadium, they have not lost in that venue since September 12th, going a perfect 8-0 at home since
COMING UP NEXT
No. 3 UNCG prepares for a rematch with No. 2 Furman on Friday at 6:30 p.m., to decide which of the two teams will advance to the SoCon finals. The Spartans will be looking for payback after falling to the Paladins 2-0 on the road during the regular season, defeating that same side 2-1 in last year's tournament final.
-- UNCG –