Rock Hill, S.C.----Wingate University senior goalkeeper Ashlyn Hardie (Summerfield, N.C.) stopped all three Lenoir-Rhyne penalty kicks Sunday afternoon, giving the Bulldogs their second consecutive South Atlantic Conference Tournament title in women's soccer action at Manchester Meadows. The Bulldogs move to 12-2-4 overall, while the Bears are now 16-3-2 on the season.
This gives Wingate three SAC Tournament championships over the past four years. The Bulldogs win back-to-back titles for the first time in program history. Wingate has played in each of the last five SAC Tournament title matches. The Bulldogs also earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive year. Wingate had never earned a bid to the tournament before the 2011 season. The 'Dogs will enter NCAA Tournament play on a 13-match unbeaten streak.
The Bears jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead, scoring three minutes into the first half when a shot from outside the box hit the crossbar and was headed home by Leah Mullins. The goal snapped a streak of over 1,060 minutes for the Bulldogs without allowing a goal. Wingate had registered 12 consecutive shutouts.
Wingate had a chance to tie it late in the first half, when freshman Colleen Zickert (Arlington Heights, Ill.) lined a low shot just inside the left side of the box that deflected off a Lenoir-Rhyne defender. LRU goalkeeper Alayna Morriswas just able to get her hands on it to deflect it just wide of the post.
Wingate got on the board 21 minutes into the second half. Three-time SAC Player of the Year Jade Montgomery(Monroe, N.C.) served a lead pass to first team All-SAC forward Brooke Howell (Charlotte, N.C.), who battled a defender into the box and was then pulled down, earning a penalty kick. First team all-conference sophomore Kaitlyn Brunworth (Littleton, Colo.) lined home the PK to tie it 1-1.
The rest of regulation and the first overtime went by scoreless. Each team had a great chance in the second overtime, starting with the Bears. Just two minutes into the period, a cross to the middle of the box found Mullins wide open from 10 yards out, but Hardie came out to make a diving, game-saving play to keep it tied.
Five minutes later, the Bulldogs earned a free kick from 25 yards out. Montgomery lined a bullet to the bottom left corner, but Morris made a great diving stop to deny the All-American and send the game to penalty kicks.
Brunworth got things started by converting the first PK, lining it into the right corner. Mullins went first for the Bears. She tried to line a low one to the right, but Hardie made the diving stop. Montgomery went second for Wingate, lining one into the upper right corner. Dylan Bedell went second for LRU. She tried to go to the upper left corner, but Hardie made another incredible save to make it 2-0.
Howell went third for the Bulldogs, grounding one into the right corner to make it 3-0. Emmi Dunn was the final kicker for the Bears. She lined one to the right, but once again Hardie denied it, giving the Bulldogs the title.
"I'm really proud that we were able to settle down as a team after the early goal, especially in the second half," head coach Chip Wiggins says. "We played the style we wanted to play. We talked Friday night about how we have to play our style and play our way. I'm so proud of the team in every aspect."
When asked about the effort of Brunworth, who made both penalty kicks she attempted Sunday, Wiggins responded, "She is huge. She is one of the players that sticks around after practice to work on PKs. She takes it seriously. I'm Proud of her and her courage to step up in the big moment."
The Bears ended the day with a 16-12 advantage in shots, holding an 8-5 edge in shots on goal. Hardie piled up five saves in regulation, while adding a save in each overtime period before stopping all three PKs. She was named the SAC Tournament MVP. Montgomery, Howell and Brunworth also earned All-Tournaments honors for the Bulldogs. Morris collected four saves for the Bears.
Wingate will learn its NCAA Tournament schedule Monday night at 7 p.m. The NCAA will have a live video of the brackets being released. The Bulldogs are the defending NCAA Southeast Region champions.
Ashlyn Hardie, Wingate (MVP)
Katilyn Brunworth, Wingate
Brooke Howell, Wingate
Jade Montgomery, Wingate
Brianna Belske, Lenoir-Rhyne
Garcelle Alequine, Lenoir-Rhyne
Casey Marlin, Lenoir-Rhyne
Sarah Sager, Newberry
Rachel Jonas, Newberry
Allison Parker, Catawba
Karen Presnell, Catawba