No. 4 Western Carolina 2, No. 1 Furman 0 (Photo gallery)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Led by Jacquelyn Gnassi’s 10 saves, the No. 4-seeded Western Carolina Catamounts upset the No. 1-seeded Furman Paladins 2-0 in Friday night’s first semifinal of the Southern Conference Women’s Soccer Championship. Emily Threatt found the back of the net in the 9th minute and Deyana Walker scored an insurance goal in the 74th to seal the victory for the Catamounts. Western Carolina will face either No. 2 seed Samford or No. 3 seed UNCG, who play in Friday’s second semifinal.
The Western Carolina attack forced a corner for the Catamounts just over eight minutes into the game. The ball was whipped into the box, where Threatt volleyed it off the bounce into the back of the net as Western Carolina took a 1-0 lead.
Looking to tie the game just minutes later, Furman’s Molly Dwyer received a through ball and fired it on frame, where Gnassi made a diving save to keep the score 1-0.
In the 42nd minute, Western Carolina’s Megan McCallister received a pass at midfield, chipping the defender and streaking down the left side of the box before swinging a ball that sailed just wide.
The Catamounts nearly doubled their lead minutes into the second half when Kasey Cooke volleyed a corner kick that was cleared off the line by the Paladins defense. In the 63rd minute, it was Furman’s turn to have a near-goal turned away as two Western Carolina defenders blocked a Paladin shot from the top of the box.
In the 71st minute, the Paladins earned a free kick outside the 18-yard box. Rachel Shah placed a dipping ball on frame but Gnassi tipped the ball just over the crossbar and out of play. On the counterattack, McCallister received a ball up the right side, touching it forward to Walker, who put the Catamounts up 2-0.
Furman continued to pressure, but Gnassi would not relinquish the lead, making another diving save against Shah in the 77th minute. The Paladins could not convert a corner kick in the 82nd and had a pair of chances go wide in the waning minutes as Western Carolina completed the upset.
The win, which avenged a 2-1 loss from earlier this season, sends the Catamounts to their first SoCon Championship final since 2008, when they upset UNCG on penalty kicks for their second tournament title.
No. 3 UNCG 2, No. 2 Samford (2OT) (Photo gallery)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Cienna Rideout scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner in double overtime as the No. 3-seeded UNCG Spartans upset the No. 2-seeded Samford Bulldogs 2-1 on Friday night. The Spartans, who got 11 saves from Aiyanah Tyler-Cooper, move on to face the No. 4-seeded Western Carolina Catamounts, who were victorious 2-0 over No. 1 seed Furman in the first SoCon semifinal matchup.
Samford threatened first as Jermaine Seoposenwe was turned away by one of Tyler-Cooper’s five first-half saves. The Spartans’ Rideout had a goal-scoring opportunity moments later, placing a ball on frame where Anna Maddox was waiting to come up with a save of her own.
Just before the end of the half, Samford’s Baylee Arnott went streaking down the right side of the field, ripping a shot just wide of the net as the two teams went into break tied 0-0.
UNCG looked to break the tie early in the second, getting a pair of shots from Heida Vidarsdottir that were blocked by the Samford defense. In the 64th minute, Samford earned a free kick from 24 yards out. Seoposenwe lofted a shot on frame but Tyler-Cooper corralled the ball to keep the game scoreless.
Minutes later, Seoposenwe received a pass near the top of the box, quickly turning with the ball and striking it upper-90 to put the Bulldogs on top 1-0.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as Rideout received a pass on the left side of the box, crossed up the Samford defense and fired a shot far post to even the score at 1-1.
With the momentum shifted, UNCG earned a pair of corner kicks but the Samford defense cleared the line both times. Tyler-Cooper came up big in the 85th minute, punching a ball out of a crowded box from a Samford corner to help send the game to overtime.
The Bulldogs nearly ended the game just seconds into the first overtime, but the UNCG defense was able to clear the ball away from inside the 6-yard box, keeping the game alive.
Less than two minutes into the second overtime, UNCG’s Emily Stump dribbled up the left side, swinging a cross into the box that Rideout would one-time into the top-right corner to give UNCG the 2-1 victory.
The win sends UNCG to the SoCon Championship final, where it will face Western Carolina. This is the first time since 2010 that UNCG has made it to the SoCon Championship final, setting up a rematch of the 2008 championship which saw the Catamounts prevail on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw.
2017 SoCon Women’s Soccer Championship
Oct. 25 (Wednesday)
First round (at higher seeds)
Match 1: No. 8 ETSU 5, No. 9 Wofford 0
Match 2: No. 7 Mercer 3, No. 10 The Citadel 0
Oct. 28 (Saturday)
Quarterfinal round (at higher seeds)
Match 5: No. 2 Samford 5, No. 7 Mercer 0
Match 6: No. 3 UNCG 2, No. 6 Chattanooga 0
Oct. 29 (Sunday)
Quarterfinal round (at higher seeds)
Match 3: No. 1 Furman 2, No. 8 ETSU 1
Match 4: No. 4 Western Carolina 1, No. 5 VMI 0
Nov. 3 (Friday)
Semifinals (Samford University Track & Soccer Stadium; Birmingham, Ala.)
Match 7: No. 4 Western Carolina, 2, No. 1 Furman 0
Match 8: No. 3 UNCG 2, No. 2 Samford 1 (2OT)
Nov. 5 (Sunday)
Final (Samford University Track & Soccer Stadium; Birmingham, Ala.)
Match 9: No. 4 Western Carolina vs. No. 3 UNCG