Falcons drop hard-fought match against Pirates in conference tournament

FROM STAFF REPORTS

SAVANNAH, Ga. –  The University of Montevallo women’s soccer team saw its late-season run come to an end Oct. 30 following a 1-0 loss on the road at Armstrong Atlantic State University in a Peach Belt Conference tournament quarterfinal match.

The top-seeded Pirates, who moved into the top spot in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America NCAA Division II poll for the first time in school history minutes before the start of the match, benefitted from a high bounce of the ball and a fortunate gust of wind to score the deciding goal in the victory over the eighth-seeded Falcons.

The wind became a factor in the 16th minute on a free kick by the Pirates’ Emily Cattanach from just inside midfield.

Cattanach’s feed into the wind sailed over the top of the Falcons’ defense and landed a few feet in front of Montevallo junior goalkeeper Taylor Kerr before bouncing off the crossbar back in front of the net, which allowed Morgan Mitchell to fire off a shot on goal. Mitchell’s attempt was blocked, but Amber Raney was in position to punch the deflection into the lower left corner of the net to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead 17:50 into the match.

Kerr faced several shot attempts on goal down the stretch in the first half, but the Falcons’ goalkeeper didn’t allow the Pirates to build any momentum on the lone goal after collecting four saves in the opening half.

Junior Christine Prince worked to get into position to net the equalizer late in the first half on a through ball into the middle of the field, but the Falcons’ forward was called offside moments before firing an attempt on goal.

Montevallo headed into the break at halftime down 1-0 with the wind playing to their favor in the second half.

Despite playing against the wind, the Pirates continued to apply pressure in the second half. Kerr was prepared for the Armstrong Atlantic State attacks, making a diving save on a deflection off a free kick in front of the Montevallo net midway through the half to keep the Falcons within striking distance.

Kerr, who finished with nine saves in the match, also saved a penalty kick by the Pirates’ Nadima Skeff in the final two minutes.

The Falcons couldn’t manage to get a clean look at the net down the stretch, allowing the Pirates to escape with the one-goal victory. A free kick by junior Paige Scott deep in the Pirates’ territory got caught up in the wind and sailed over the top of the net in the Falcons’ best chance at netting the equalizer in the second half.

Freshman Jade Pennock led the Falcons with five shots in the match, including four attempts on goal.

Armstrong Atlantic State (16-1-1) pushed its school-record winning streak to 16 matches, currently the longest winning streak in NCAA Division II. The Pirates, the defending Peach Belt Conference tournament champions, entered the tournament as the top seed after finishing with a perfect 11-0 mark in the conference during the regular season.

Montevallo defeated Young Harris College 3-1 in its final Peach Belt Conference match of the regular season Oct. 27 to clinch the final spot in the conference tournament, which put the Falcons (7-9-2) back in the postseason following a one-year absence.

Montevallo has advanced to the Peach Belt Conference tournament three times in four years under coach Patricia Hughes since joining the conference in 2009.

The Falcons fought through adversity midway through the season following a season-ending injury to starting goalkeeper Kaitlin Thomas. Kerr, who began the season as a backup forward, took over at goalkeeper for Thomas and became a candidate for the All-Conference team in the final half of the season.