UNCG ties Western Carolina, drops SoCon title game in penalty kicks
MT. PLEASANT, S.C. – Just like in Friday night's semifinal round of the Southern Conference tournament, the UNC Greensboro women's soccer team battled its opponent to scoreless draw, forcing penalty kicks. Unlike Friday, however, the kicks didn't go the Spartans' way as UNCG was denied its seventh SoCon tournament title when Western Carolina prevailed 2-0 in penalty kicks on Sunday at Patriots Point.
After making all four of its attempts in penalty kicks against Furman on Friday to advance to the championship match, UNCG (1-6-4-3) was stonewalled by Western Carolina keeper Caitlin Williams on all four of its attempts against the Catamounts (13-7-2).
Nikki Lombardo and Arlan Whittle made their penalty kicks for Western Carolina. Lauren Lopez, Katelynn Donovan, Jenn Partenheimer and Kristin Player missed for UNCG.
"Penalty kicks can be a bit of a crapshoot, and they went in our favor Friday night but didn't go to our favor today," Spartans coach Eddie Radwankski said. "One of our objectives was to play better than we did Friday, and we did, we played good soccer. We could have probably been a little more dangerous at times, but give Western a lot of credit, they hung in there, they defended well and they did their job."
The Spartans went first in penalty kicks, and Williams, who was named the tournament MVP after the contest, dove to her right to stop Lopez's attempt. After Lombardo was good her attempt into the lower left corner, Williams came up with another stop on SoCon Player of the Year Donovan's shot.
UNCG keeper Kelsey Kearney kept the Spartans in the battle with her stop on Shanna Schmoker, but Williams countered with another save, this time on Partenheimer. Whittle then stroked home a shot into the right side of the net to make it 2-0, bringing up Player in a must-make situation to keep the Spartans alive.
Player, whose PK clinched it for UNCG on Friday, became the fourth Williams victim as the rival keeper cemented the title and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for the Catamounts.
The regulation and two overtime periods were back-and-forth, with both sides coming up empty on scoring chances. The Spartans earned a pair of corner kicks in the first minute of the opening overtime period, but couldn't mount a shot on either attempt.
In the second extra frame, the Catamounts played a ball into their offensive half that landed in no-man's land between Kearney and Western Carolina's Rachael Shomper. Kearney won the foot race by an eyelash, sliding to wrap up the ball just inches inside the 18-yard box.
Kearney made one save in earning her 11th shutout of the season.
Williams stopped four shots in picking up a shutout of her own.
Kearney, Lopez and Mary Kate Towne were named to the all-tournament team for the Spartans. Western Carolina put Whittle, Schmoker, Williams and Jenny Matteson on the squad, while Furman's Margaret Antonik and Katya Gokhman and Samford's Paige Lanter and Amber Cress rounded out the team.
"I'm very proud of our kids for how they played, and how they played all season," Radwanski said. "They set history in the conference (with a third consecutive undefeated conference season), and it obviously doesn't feel good to not get the result here, but as I told them, they have no reason to hang their heads. Hopefully we've done enough to be able to get another at-large bid to the tournament. I think we deserve it. I think we're one of those teams and hope we get a chance to play the following week."
The Spartans will now await word on whether they will receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Goals by period 1 2 OT O2 Tot
Western Carolina.... 0 0 0 0 - 0
UNC Greensboro...... 0 0 0 0 - 0
SHOOTOUT RESULTS: Western Carolina: Lombardo/Y, Schmoker/N, Whittle/Y; UNC Greensboro: Lopez/N, Donovan/N, Partenheimer/N, Player/N; Western Carolina wins shootout 2-0. Shots: Western Carolina 5, UNC Greensboro 8. Saves: Western Carolina 4 (Caitlin Williams 4), UNC Greensboro 1 (Kelsey Kearney 1). Corner kicks: Western Carolina 5, UNC Greensboro 4. Fouls: Western Carolina 13, UNC Greensboro 9. Championship match of 2008 SoCon Championships Western Carolina advances to NCAA tournament on PKs, 2-0.
- UNCG -