GREENVILLE, S.C. – No. 4 seed Mercer advanced to its second straight Southern Conference Women’s Soccer Championship final, ousting No. 1 seed Samford in penalty kicks, 4-3, after playing to a 1-1 draw in Friday’s first semifinal at Furman University’s Eugene Stone III Stadium. The Bears will play either Furman or UNCG on Sunday with a chance to defend its tournament title.
The Bears (9-7-4) remained undefeated in SoCon tournament play, moving to 4-0-1 in their second year in the league.
After neither team could score the golden goal in extra time, the match went to penalty kicks with a title-game berth on the line. Mercer’s Maddie Clark cashed in the Bears’ first opportunity, going far right while Samford keeper Katie Peters – who entered the match for the first time for the PKs – dove the other way.
Mercer keeper Maggie Cropp kept it a 1-0 advantage when she saved Hallie Georgi’s attempt, and Sarah Daane made it 2-0 for the Bears when she converted her attempt lower left.
Samford (14-5-1) got on the board on Taylor Borman’s strike to the lower left corner, and Peters dove to her right to save Katelyn Dimopoulos’ attempt to give the Bulldogs a chance to pull even. Emily Jones did just that for Samford, knocking home her attempt to the right side to make it 2-2. After Mercer’s Corinne Wooten and Samford’s Kaitlyn Orman traded makes, Mercer’s Haleigh Svede hammered home her shot to the upper-left corner to put Mercer up 4-3 and put Samford’s Jermaine Seoposenwe in a must-make situation.
Seoposenwe went lower left but put her shot off the post, sending Mercer through to Sunday’s final.
Both sides had their chances to win it in overtime, but neither could convert.
Cropp made a nice stop on Ella Baggett’s close-range attempt off a corner kick midway through the first overtime to keep it tied, and Baggett had another go from the top of the box with 20 seconds left, but her curling strike was just high and the game went to a second OT.
Samford’s Malcanisha Kelley had the Bulldogs’ best chance in the second extra period with just over six minutes to play, but she sent her wide-open shot from the penalty spot wide right.
Mercer’s Valeria Bermeo nearly won it for the Bears with two minutes left in double overtime, firing a shot from 10 yards out, but Samford starting keeper Anna Maddox was there for the quick, game-saving punch over the crossbar to keep the game tied.
After a scoreless first half with few scoring opportunities for either side, the Bulldogs struck first just after halftime. In the 49th minute, Borman sent a cross in from the right side of the box that found Kelley at the top of the 6-yard box. Kelley headed the ball in for her 13th goal of the season, extending her own school records for single-season goals and career goals (28).
With just under 20 minutes left in regulation, Mercer earned back-to-back corner kicks but couldn't get off a shot. Minutes later, the Bears finally broke through, as Bermeo evened the score in the 73rd minute. A Mercer cross into the box was chested down by Bulldog defender Alissa Hansen, but the ball landed right at the feet of Bermeo, who one-timed a line drive to the far post to draw the Bears level.
With almost exactly two minutes left in regulation, Kelley and Seoposenwe teamed up for a two-on-one breakaway that drew Cropp well off her line, but the senior keeper recovered to smother the ball at Seoposenwe’s feet and keep it a 1-1 game.
Mercer awaits the winner of Friday’s second semifinal, between No. 2 seed Furman and No. 3 seed UNCG. The title match will take place Sunday at 1 p.m. and will air live on ESPN3.
2015 SoCon Women’s Soccer Championship
Oct. 28 (Wednesday)
First round (at higher seeds)
Match 1: No. 9 VMI 0, No. 8 Chattanooga 0 (2OT, VMI advances in PKs, 3-2)
Match 2: No. 7 Wofford 3, No. 10 The Citadel 0
Oct. 31 (Saturday)
Quarterfinal round (at higher seeds)
Match 3: No. 1 Samford 3, No. 9 VMI 0
Match 4: No. 4 Mercer 3, No. 5 ETSU 2
Match 6: No. 3 UNCG 3, No. 6 Western Carolina 1
Nov. 1 (Sunday)
Quarterfinal round (at higher seed)
Match 5: No. 2 Furman 3, No. 7 Wofford 0
Nov. 6 (Friday)
Semifinals (Eugene Stone III Soccer Stadium; Greenville, S.C.)
Match 7: No. 1 Samford 1, No. 4 Mercer 1 (2OT, Mercer advances in PKs, 4-3)
Match 8: No. 2 Furman vs. No. 3 UNCG, 7:30 p.m. (SoCon Digital Network)
Nov. 8 (Sunday)
Final (Eugene Stone III Soccer Stadium; Greenville, S.C.)
Match 9: Winner Match 7 vs. Winner Match 8, 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
All times Eastern.