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With less than three minutes left in regulation and the score tied at 1, Mercer’s Brianna Stampler lofted a corner kick into the box. Washida Blackman nodded it on frame, but the ball went off of Samford defender Alissa Hansen’s hip and spun backward toward the goal. Hansen tried in vain to get a boot on the ball, but it went in for the own goal in the 88th minute.
The own goal was the second to benefit Mercer in as many matches in the tournament, as the Bears also were on the receiving end of one in the 83rd minute to slip past Furman in Friday’s semifinal match.
The championship was Mercer’s first in the Southern Conference, as the Bears joined the league this season.
After a scoreless first half that saw few real scoring chances for either side, both offenses awoke in the second frame. Mercer broke through in the 48th minute, as Samford was whistled for a foul in the box, setting up a penalty kick for the Bears. Tess Patton stepped to the spot and converted just right of center, with Samford keeper Anna Maddox guessing the wrong direction.
Samford answered with 31:07 left in the game, as the Bulldogs drew a foul in the box to earn a penalty kick of their own. Jermaine Seoposenwe drilled her shot into the lower left corner to draw Samford level in the 59th minute.
In the 72nd minute, Mercer player a corner kick back to Kristen Hagaman, who fired a shot on frame from 25 yards out that Maddox was just able to punch over the crossbar.
Just moments later, Samford’s Amanda Abbott got in for a one-on-one with Mercer keeper Maggie Cropp, enticing Cropp off her line, but Abbott’s chip shot sailed harmlessly over the goal.
Cropp, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, had the save of the match in the 79th minute, making a full-extension grab on a Malcanisha Kelley shot from just inside the box that seemed destined for the upper 90 at the near post.
In the 80th minute, Mercer’s Stampler fired a missile from 30 yards out that Maddox was just able to punch over the bar, and in the 85th, Kelley had another chance with Cropp drawn out that Hagaman cleared just feet from going in.
Mercer’s win avenged its only SoCon blemish to date, as the Bears were atop the SoCon standings for much of the season before falling 1-0 to Samford on the final day of the regular season as the Bulldogs claimed the regular-season title.
Cropp, who finished with six saves on the day, was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Blackman, Rachel Buffalo and Tess Patton, while Samford’s Seoposenwe, Anna Allen and Katie Danehy also earned spots. ETSU’s Cecilia Re and Sarah Zadrazil and Furman’s Alyssa Althoff and Hannah Stanifer rounded out the team.
Southern Conference All-Tournament Team
Cecilia Re, ETSU
Sarah Zadrazil, ETSU
Alyssa Althoff, Furman
Hannah Stanifer, Furman
Anna Allen, Samford
Katie Danehy, Samford
Jermaine Seoposenwe, Samford
Washida Blackman, Mercer
Rachel Buffalo, Mercer
Maggie Cropp, Mercer
Tess Patton, Mercer
Most Outstanding Player – Maggie Cropp, Mercer
2014 SoCon Women’s Soccer Championship
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. 3 Mercer 2, No. 1 Samford 1
All times Eastern.