GREENVILLE, S.C. – Tournament Most Outstanding Player Stephanie DeVita scored the golden goal in the 105th minute to lead No. 2 seed Furman to a 1-0 win over No. 4 seed Mercer in the Southern Conference Women’s Soccer Championship on Sunday at the Paladins’ Stone Stadium. With the win, Furman earned the SoCon’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
The NCAA selection show will air live on NCAA.com at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
After a scoreless regulation and first overtime period, the game-winning play started with Furman’s Jamie Alexander sending a cross across the box to Rachel Shah, who laid the ball off to DeVita. The senior from Simpsonville, S.C., who scored all six of Furman’s goals in the tournament en route to MOP honors, fired off a shot that deflected off a Mercer defender and into the top right corner of the net for the Paladins’ sixth title overall and second in the last three years.
DeVita, a two-time SoCon Player of the Year, was also named MOP during Furman’s 2013 title run.
The golden-goal finish capped an exciting weekend of close matches, as Mercer (9-8-4), the defending tournament champion, earned its second straight title-game appearance after downing No. 1 seed Samford in penalty kicks in Friday’s first semifinal. Furman (17-4-1) then rallied past No. 3 seed UNCG in the second semi, with DeVita scoring the tying goal in the 83rd minute and the game-winner with just five seconds left in the match.
Sunday’s final saw several scoring chances for both squads, but neither could cash them in until DeVita’s strike.
Just 15 seconds into the first overtime, Mercer’s Katelyn Dimopoulos got off a sliding shot inside the box, but Furman keeper Maggie Grisell was there to make the save.
Furman earned several free kicks just outside the box in the first OT and nearly got the win on a quick restart that saw Carlie Couch peel off the edge of the Mercer wall and get off a shot from inside 10 yards, but Mercer keeper Maggie Cropp made the stop.
With one minute left in the first overtime, the Bears’ Carolina Smith ripped a shot from the top of the box, but Grisell made a diving stop to her right to push it just wide and send the game to the deciding frame.
Furman once again nearly got the win early in the second OT, but Molly Dwyer’s one-timer inside the box crashed off the left post. That was the second ball to draw iron for the Paladins on the day, as Sanon Williams’ header went off the crossbar in the 16th minute.
Grisell stopped six shots on the day for her 10th shutout of the season. Cropp made eight saves in the losing effort but finishes her career atop the SoCon’s career goals-against average list with a 0.72 mark in her two years in the league.
The win was the ninth straight for Furman, which is unbeaten in its last 11 matches. The Paladins also picked up their school-record 11th home win.
DeVita’s goal extended her SoCon career record to 68 and pushed her career point total to 159, good for second in league history and two back of the record held by Georgia Southern’s Tara Chaisson.
Grisell, Shah and Williams joined DeVita on the all-tournament team for the Paladins, while Cropp, Maddie Clark and Sarah Daane earned spots for Mercer.
UNCG’s Georgia Brown and Chesney White and Samford’s Taylor Borman and Malcanisha Kelley rounded out the all-tournament squad.
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 2, No. 3 UNCG 1
Nov. 8 (Sunday)
Final (Eugene Stone III Soccer Stadium; Greenville, S.C.)
Match 9: No. 2 Furman 1, No. 4 Mercer 0 (2OT)
Georgia Brown, UNCG
Chesney White, UNCG
Taylor Borman, Samford
Malcanisha Kelley, Samford
Maddie Clark, Mercer
Maggie Cropp, Mercer
Sarah Daane, Mercer
Stephanie DeVita, Furman
Maggie Grisell, Furman
Rachel Shah, Furman
Sanon Williams, Furman
Most Outstanding Player
Stephanie DeVita, Furman