No. 20 Lady Braves Shut Out In Semifinals By No. 12 Columbus State, 3-0
EVANS, Ga. – Second-seeded and 12th-ranked Columbus State scored a pair of first half goals to take a comfortable lead into halftime, and then added an insurance score in the second stanza in knocking off third-seeded and 20th-ranked UNCP in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament semifinals Friday evening at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga.
The result marked the fourth-straight shutout for Columbus State (18-1-1) who will now advance to the championship game on Sunday against fourth-seeded North Georgia who was a surprising 3-1 winner over top-seeded Armstrong Atlantic in Friday's other semifinal. UNCP (15-3-2) will return home and wait to find out if an at-large bid is awarded by the NCAA selection committee.
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Lady Braves whose only losses this season have come to the top two teams in the latest NCAA Southeast Region poll - Columbus State (twice) and Armstrong Atlantic.
Seventeen players saw action for Columbus State while UNCP played their starters for the entire 90 minutes. The win pushed the Cougars' advantage in the series over the Lady Braves to 8-1-1, including a current eight-game series winning streak.
UNCP was pressured the entire game as Columbus State outshot the Black and Gold by a 22-4 count. Brittany Padilla led the Lady Braves with two shots, with Andrea Collen and Sheena Mature each tallying one strike. Columbus State's Kate Walton posted a game-high five shots, with Stephanie Lowery, Leslie Mathews, Jackie Ellis and Stephanie Parrish having three shots apiece.
"Our first half was disastrous and we made some catastrophic mistakes individually and collectively," said UNCP head coach Lars Andersson. "Columbus State is a challenge to play and this is a well-deserved victory for them. We are disappointed that we played so poorly in such an important game, but now all we can do is wait and hope for an at-large bid."
First team all-PBC honoree and PBC Freshman of the Year Britney Bennett grabbed a season-high 11 saves for the Black and Gold.
Lowery attacked the goal just 14 minutes into the game with a free kick from the left side. With 7:30 remaining to play in the first half, Husted got on the stat sheet off an assist from Ellis when she connected on a shot past Bennett that gave the Cougars a 2-0 lead at the break. Mathews knocked in the third goal with six minutes remaining in the game to cap the game scoring.
UNCP, which is ranked third in the latest NCAA Southeast Region poll, will assemble at an undisclosed location for Monday's 7 p.m. NCAA Selection Show to learn if they will continue on in the 48-team NCAA Division II Women's Soccer Tournament which will begin on Thursday at selected campus host sites.