UNCG advances to SoCon finals, escaping Furman in PKs
MT. PLEASANT, S.C. – Sophomore Kristin Player notched the clinching penalty kick and freshman Kelsey Kearney saved a pair of Furman attempts as top-seeded UNC Greensboro battled the fifth-seeded Paladins to a scoreless draw but advanced to the Southern Conference Women's Soccer Championship final on penalty kicks, 4-2 on Friday.
After 90 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of golden-goal overtime failed to yield a score for either team, Player stepped to the penalty spot with UNCG (16-4-2) leading 3-2. Her shot into the lower left corner found the back of the net, securing the Spartans' spot in the championship game.
Kearney, the SoCon's all-conference first-team keeper, had just as much to do with it, as she made a pair of stops to get UNCG in position to clinch. After Furman's Margaret Antonik and UNCG's Lauren Lopez traded goals to open the PKs, the Paladins' Kate Myatt came up with a chance to put Furman back on top. Instead, her strike was virtually right down the middle, with Kearney taking a step to her right and catching the shot with no problem.
SoCon Player of the Year Katelynn Donovan curled her attempt inside the left post to put the Spartans up 2-1 before Kearney came up with another huge stop, swatting away SoCon Freshman of the Year Martha Hall's attempt.
UNCG's Jenn Partenheimer drilled her shot into the lower right corner to give the Spartans a comfortable 3-1 lead, but Furman's Katya Gokhman countered as Kearney got a hand on her shot into the lower right corner but couldn't stop it.
That brought up Player, last season's SoCon Freshman of the Year, who punched her shot in to bring the UNCG bench storming onto the field to celebrate.
"We're obviously excited to advance to the championship game," said UNCG coach Eddie Radwanski, the SoCon Coach of the Year. "It was a little bit of an ugly game today. There wasn't a whole lot of soccer going on, and I thought Furman gave a great effort and played well at times. We just couldn't get much going, but we've played very well all season. You're going to have these games that pop up, and it just happened to pop up. I told the team afterward, 'Sometimes, you just have to find a way to get it done.' And to the girls' credit, they did that.
"Kelsey was outstanding in goal, not just during the game, but in the PKs, and our girls just finished their chances when they got them. Credit to Furman. It takes two teams to make a game, and they certainly made a game of it."
Furman (14-6-2) outshot the Spartans 17-5 on the day and had the run of play for much of the contest. Hall nearly gave the Paladins the win just a minute and a half into the first overtime, but her curling shot from 21 yards out smacked off the crossbar. Gokhman also had a shot find the post in the 13th minute of regulation.
UNCG's only shot in either overtime came off the foot of Carolin Feierabend in the waning seconds of the first extra period, but her attempt from about 25 yards was high.
Kearney picked up her 10th shutout of the season, posting eight saves on the night. She made a game-saving stop with just five seconds left in regulation, diving to her right to deny Gokhman's attempt just before the final buzzer.
Kearney's counterpart, Jessica Smith, made a pair of saves to earn a shutout of her own.
Hall took a game-high seven shots. Five different players accounted for UNCG's five shots.
The Spartans will take on second-seeded Western Carolina, a 1-0 winner over No. 3 Samford in Friday's other semifinal, at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Goals by period 1 2 OT
O2 SO Tot
Furman.............. 0 0 0 0 2 - 0
UNC Greensboro...... 0 0 0 0 4 - 0
UNC Greensboro wins shootout 4-2.
Shootout results: Furman: Antonik/Y Myatt/N Hall/N Gokhman/Y; UNC Greensboro: Lopez/Y Donovan/Y Partenheimer/Y Player/Y. Shots: Furman 17, UNC Greensboro 5. Saves: Furman 2 (Jessica Smith 2), UNC Greensboro 8 (Kelsey Kearney 8). Corner kicks: Furman 5, UNC Greensboro 0. Fouls: Furman 11, UNC Greensboro 15. Semifinal #1 of 2008 Southern Conference Championships. UNCG advances to championship match on penalty kicks 4-2.
- UNCG -