GREENSBORO, N.C. – Freshman Tabitha Padgett scored in the 71st minute and UNC Greensboro made the lead stand, beating Elon 1-0 on Thursday to win its fourth straight Southern Conference regular-season championship. The Spartans secured the top seed and hosting duties for the SoCon Championship, which will be held Nov. 6 and 8 at UNCG Soccer Stadium.
UNCG finished the regular season with a 13-6 overall record and a 9-2 mark to sit atop the SoCon standings. Elon wrapped up its regular season with a 12-5-2 overall record and a 7-3-1 mark in league play. The Phoenix will have to wait for Saturday's Davidson-Georgia Southern match to learn its fate – a Davidson win would put the Wildcats into a tie with Elon for fourth in the league and give Davidson entry into the four-team tournament via tiebreaker. A Georgia Southern win or tie would give Elon the No. 4 seed and a tournament berth.
The Spartans dominated the first half statistically, outshooting the Phoenix 16-2 and holding a 7-2 advantage in corner kicks. But Elon's defense held stout – with Little making five of her eight saves in the opening stanza – and the teams were locked in a scoreless duel until well into the second half.
That's when Padgett came through with her team-high fifth game-winning goal of the season, taking a pass from Jenn Partenheimer at the top of the box, dribbling in a few steps and beating Elon keeper Sydney Little to the right side of the goal at the 70:13 mark.
UNCG's defense did the rest, surviving Elon's late-game push to post its 10th shutout in 19 games this season. Keeper Kelsey Kearney made one save in turning in her eighth shutout of the year, moving her into a tie for fourth place on UNCG's career list with Katherine Ryan (2004-07).
Elon's best scoring chance came in the 54th minute, when Brittany Hallberg took a pass just outside the 18-yard box and fired a shot on frame. Kearney was there to make the stop, keeping the game scoreless at that point.
Attayek nearly made it a 2-0 game in the 76th minute, receiving a pass from Bronson inside the box and firing away from 8 yards out. Little made a nice diving stop on the ball, going to her left for the quick save to keep the Spartans from adding an insurance goal.
The Phoenix ramped up their offensive pressure late in the game, but the UNCG defense stepped up to clear the ball away time after time. Elon's Claire O'Keefe had a nice look in the 89th minute, dribbling in on the right side and firing from about 10 yards out. Her shot was blocked by a UNCG defender, however, and the Phoenix would not get off another chance.
For the match, UNCG held a 22-6 shot advantage and a 10-3 advantage in corner kicks. Six players accounted for Elon's six attempts, while Partenheimer led the Spartans with five shots.
The tile, UNCG's fifth in the last seasons, makes the Spartans the first SoCon team to win four straight titles outright. Furman won five straight from 1999-2003, but shared the title in 2001. The regular-season championship is UNCG's eighth overall since joining the league in 1997.
UNCG will face either Davidson or Elon at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6. No. 2 seed College of Charleston will face No. 3 seed Samford at 5 p.m. The title match will be at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8.
Elon (12-5-2, 7-3-1 SoCon) vs. UNC Greensboro (13-6, 9-2 SoCon)
Date: Oct 29, 2009 Attendance: 802
Weather: 60 degrees and clear
Goals by period 1 2 Tot
Elon 0 0 0
UNC Greensboro 0 1 1
1 70:13 UNCG Tabitha Padgett (8) (Jenn Partenheimer)
Shots: Elon 6, UNC Greensboro 22
Saves: Elon 8 (Sydney Little 8), UNC Greensboro 1 (Kelsey Kearney 1)
Corner kicks: Elon 3, UNC Greensboro 10
Fouls: Elon 6, UNC Greensboro 6
- UNCG -