Birmingham, Ala. – Fifth-year senior Martha Hall fired a shot past College of Charleston goalkeeper Eli Sarasola in the 77th minute to lift third-seeded Furman to a 2-1 victory over the Cougars on Friday night in the Southern Conference Women's Soccer Semifinals at Samford Track And Soccer Stadium.
With their seventh straight victory, the Paladins improved to 16-3-2 on the season and punched their ticket to the SoCon Championship Match on Sunday afternoon in Birmingham, Ala., against the eighth-seeded Georgia Southern Eagles who downed Elon 1-0 earlier in the day. Kickoff for Sunday's match is set for 1 p.m. CST, 2 p.m. EST, and it will be broadcast live on ESPN3. The winner will secure the SoCon's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
The Paladins and Cougars were deadlocked at 1-1 with 14 minutes to play in regulation when freshman Jamie Alexander collected the ball just across the midfield stripe and chipped a pass down the middle of the field towards the top of the Charleston 18-yard box. Hall split two CofC defenders, ran onto the ball and buried a shot to the top shelf from near the top of the box at the 76:04 mark for the eventual match-winning tally. Hall's goal was her fifth of the season and 35th of her Furman career. It marked her 16th career match-winning tally, good for second in Paladin history.
College of Charleston went on the attack following Hall's go-ahead goal and pressured the Paladins' back line for the remaining 13:56 of regulation, but a team save on a Jackie Weston shot from the top of the six-yard box with under five minutes to play proved to be enough as Furman held on to advance to its 11th SoCon finals in school history.
"I'm so proud of our team for battling for the full 90 minutes tonight and not panicking when Charleston tied the game or during the final few minutes," said Furman head coach Andrew Burr. "We were able to get two outstanding goals tonight and we can't wait to face a good Georgia Southern team on Sunday."
Furman took the a first half lead on the first shot of the match in the seventh minute. India Robinson beat her defender down the left side, cut the ball back to her right foot and curled a cross towards the far post that junior Hannah Stanifer headed into the center of net at 6:46 for her sixth tally of 2012. Robinson recorded her SoCon-leading ninth assist of the season.
The Paladins threatened to double the lead late in the first half, but Sarasola made a diving save on a goal-bound shot from Stephanie DeVita to keep the margin at a single goal heading into halftime.
Charleston wasted little time leveling the score after the break as the Cougars capitalized on a Furman turnover and McCallie Jones hammered a 15-yard shot past Paladin goalkeeper Rose Hull at the 48:02 mark to knot the score at 1-1.
Both teams struggled to create many scoring opportunities over the next 25 minutes prior to Hall's match-winning score as the two teams combined for just eight total shots in the second half.
Hull stopped two shots to earn the victory in goal for Furman while Sarasola turned away four shots for the Cougars. Furman managed a 12-10 edge in total shots and 6-4 advantage in shots on goal.
Fans can log onto www.FurmanPaladins.com and www.SoConSports.com to follow live statistics of Sunday's championship tilt. Live updates of the match will also be available on Twitter by following @FurmanPaladins.
- Friday's match marked Furman's 13th appearance in the SoCon semifinals in the last 15 years.
- The victory improved Furman to 28-11-2 all-time in SoCon postseason play.
- Furman is seeking its first league title and NCAA Tournament berth since scoring a 3-1 finals victory over UNCG in 2007.