Mercer Tops Furman to Advance to SoCon Title Match
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 11/07/2014
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Mercer's Maggie Cropp
Courtesy: Southern Conference
CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Third-seeded Mercer benefitted from an own goal in the 83rd minute to edge No. 2 seed Furman 3-2 in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Women’s Soccer Championship at Western Carolina’s Catamount Athletic Complex on Friday. The Bears will face No. 1 seed Samford in Sunday’s title match.

The Bears (13-5-2) will be making their first title-match appearance in their first year in the league. Sunday’s title game will begin at 1 p.m. at the Catamount Athletic Complex and air live on ESPN3.

With the score tied at 2 in the waning minutes of regulation, Mercer’s Tess Patton lofted a cross from the right wing into the box. Furman’s Hannah Stanifer tried to head the ball away, but it ricocheted off teammate Claire Sullivan’s chest and into the lower left corner of the goal for the go-ahead score.

Despite five total goals being scored, both teams got outstanding play from their keepers. Mercer’s Maggie Cropp, a first-team All-SoCon selection, had a career-high 12 saves, many of the diving variety. Furman counterpart Rose Hull, a second-team All-SoCon pick, also had a solid night in the net with five saves, many of them spectacular, as well.

Mercer seemed to seize momentum midway through the second half on a Kristen Hagaman goal in the 65th minute, but Furman (13-4-2) quickly answered with a Carlie Couch strike just 3:01 later to knot the game at 2.

The plays were strikingly similar. On Mercer’s goal, Washida Blackman took a shot in the box that Hull came out to snuff, but the rebound went right to the feet of Hagaman, who tapped it into the open net as Mercer reclaimed its one-goal advantage. The goal was Hagaman’s first of the season.

Couch, a first-team All-SoCon selection for the Paladins, pulled the Paladins level just moments later, running on to a saved Stephanie DeVita shot to make it 2-2. Couch’s goal was her ninth.

Mercer held a 1-0 lead for most of the first half, as Maddie Clark put the Bears on the board in just the sixth minute of action, collecting a ball 40 yards out and weaving through traffic to pound home her sixth goal of the season to stake the Bears to the 1-0 lead.

Furman drew even in the 58th minute when DeVita – the SoCon Player of the Year for the second time in her career – found Molly Dwyer with a precision pass around a Mercer defender to hit Dwyer in stride. Dwyer slotted her shot into the lower left corner for her fifth goal of the year to put Furman on the board.

The Paladins outshot the Bears 20-9 on the night, forcing Cropp into several outstanding saves, including a diving stop at the post on a Jamie Alexander shot in the 19th minute and one on a DeVita penalty kick in the 36th minute.

Cropp also stuffed Dwyer on a one-on-one with 36 minutes left, getting just enough of the ball to watch it trickle out of bounds before Dwyer could track it down.

Hull was nearly as impressive on the other end. With 2:45 left in the opening half, Clark nearly doubled Mercer’s lead with a shot to the far post, but Hull sprawled to her left to make the save.

2014 SoCon Women’s Soccer Championship

Oct. 29 (Wednesday)
First round (at higher seeds)
Match 1: No. 9 The Citadel 3, No. 8 VMI 0
Match 2: No. 7 Wofford 5, No. 10 Chattanooga 0

Nov. 1 (Saturday)
Quarterfinal round (at higher seeds)
Match 3: No. 1 Samford 6, No. 9 The Citadel 0

Nov. 2 (Sunday)
Quarterfinal round (at higher seeds)
Match 4: No. 4 ETSU 3, No. 5 UNCG 2 (OT)
Match 5: No. 2 Furman 3, No. 7 Wofford 2
Match 6: No. 3 Mercer 2, No. 6 Western Carolina 1

Nov. 7 (Friday)
Semifinals (Catamount Athletic Complex; Cullowhee, N.C.)
Match 7: No. 1 Samford 2, No. 4 ETSU 1
Match 8: No. 3 Mercer 3, No. 2 Furman 2

Nov. 9 (Sunday)
Final (Catamount Athletic Complex; Cullowhee, N.C.)
Match 9: No. 1 Samford vs. No. 3 Mercer, 1 p.m. (ESPN3)

All times Eastern.
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