Pioneers advance to SAC semifinals in PKs over Lenoir-Rhyne

Pioneers advance to SAC semifinals in PKs over Lenoir-Rhyne

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Tusculum converted all four of its penalty kicks, including the clincher by Carlie Thornber, to advance to the semifinals of the South Atlantic Conference Women's Soccer Championship tournament following a 1-1 draw with Lenoir-Rhyne in quarterfinal action Tuesday night at Pioneer Field.

The fourth-seeded Pioneers (10-6-1) will face top-seeded Carson-Newman in the semifinals on Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The fifth-seeded Bears finish their season with an 11-5-2 record.

The Pioneers received a goal from Jordan Newby in the 26th minute and nursed the advantage into the final seven minutes, when the Bears' Abbie Brown scored on a free kick to knot the score at 1-1. Both teams had two shots on goal in overtime, but could not break the deadlock as the match finished in a 1-1 tie.

Shooting first, the Bears opened penalty kicks with a goal by Abigael McGarel, but Sonja Ballmert responded on the Pioneers' first attempt. Tusculum then watched as Brown and Aqsa Mushtaq shot high on consecutive kicks, while Yvette Raaijen and Newby put their attempts in to give the Pioneers a 3-1 edge through three rounds.

Lenoir-Rhyne's Madi Kyle kept her team alive in the fourth round to cut the Tusculum advantage to 3-2, but Thornber stepped up and buried her shot to send the Pioneers to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2013. Tusculum had been eliminated from the SAC tournament on penalty kicks four times in the previous six years, and were 2-5 all-time in penalty kicks in the conference tournament, including a loss to Lenoir-Rhyne in the 2009 semifinals.

Tusculum had the first three shots of the match, including a blast from short range from Brooke Radcliffe in the eighth minute that was stopped by Lenoir-Rhyne keeper Alayna Morris. Hannah Van Eerden had an opportunity in the 12th minute for the Bears, but chipped a cross wide of the goal. The Pioneers had a good look in the 18th minute as Cheyenne Upton broke free down the right side, but wound up at a sharp angle and took a shot that was knocked away by Morris.

The Pioneers grabbed the 1-0 lead in the 26th minute as Radcliffe's cross was redirected by Newby past Morris for her sixth goal of the season at 25:38. Ballmert nearly gave Tusculum a 2-0 lead two minutes later, but Morris dove to stop a free kick from 25 yards. The Pioneer defense helped carry the lead into halftime by keeping the Bears without a shot attempt in the final 12 minutes.

Lenoir-Rhyne, which was outshot 7-5 in the first half, came out in the second half with the first seven shot attempts. The best opportunity came from Mushtaq in the 67th minute, as she fired a shot from 10 yards that Tusculum keeper Hannah Graham punched away as two players crossed in front of her.

With just under seven minutes to go, the Pioneers were called for a foul a few yards from the touchline deep in their own territory. Brown stepped up to take the free kick, and launched a shot that went through a group of players untouched and into the Pioneer net to knot the score at 1-1 with 6:32 left.

Just over a minute later, Sarah Pullman nearly gave the Bears the lead as her shot from the left wing hit the top right corner of the goal frame and caromed back. Newby had Tusculum's best chance with about 2 1/2 minutes left as she chased behind the defense for a loose ball, only to see Morris come off her line and deflect the try at the top of the box.

Lenoir-Rhyne outshot Tusculum 3-1 in the first overtime, but the Pioneers' only chance came on a free kick from Ballmert that was grabbed by Morris with 6:52 to play. Tusculum was set up for a chance for the match-winner with seven minutes left in the second overtime as Morris handled the ball outside the box, but Raaijen's free kick from 20 yards went directly into Morris.

The Bears finished the match with an 18-15 edge in shots over the Pioneers, and had a 7-2 advantage in corner kicks. Tusculum was whistled for 19 fouls to 18 for Lenoir-Rhyne, while the Bears were issued the only caution of the match in the first minute of the second overtime period. Graham finished with five saves in goal for the Pioneers, while Morris had seven saves for the Bears as each keeper had two saves in the overtime.

Tusculum hosted Carson-Newman on Oct. 18 and played the Eagles even for 77 minutes before Lauren Wade scored three times in 3 1/2 minutes to lift Carson-Newman to a 3-0 victory. The Pioneers are 5-1 all-time against the Eagles in the SAC Championship tournament, with the most-recent meeting a 1-0 Tusculum win in overtime in the 2010 quarterfinals.

The winner of Friday's semifinal match will play either second-seeded Wingate or sixth-seeded Anderson in the championship match Sunday at 4 p.m. Wingate and Anderson will meet in the other semifinal match Friday at 7 p.m. at Manchester Meadows.