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No. 3 Liberty Falls on Penalty Kicks to No. 5 UNC Asheville in Big South Women's Soccer Championship Final
UNC Asheville's Meagan Bradham scored the game-winner for the Bulldogs after freshman goalkeeper Veronica Lazar blocked and saved an attempt by Maggie Woody (Fr., MF, Asheville, N.C.). Juliana Duncan converted the first shot of the shootout with a top shelf score on the left side. Liberty's Mallory Neff (Jr., MF, Sunbury, Pa,) countered with a goal of her own, and it was 2-2 after the first four shooters. Asheville's Robyn Busha's roller inside the left post made it 3-2 in favor of the Bulldogs. On Liberty's third attempt, Tanya Payne (Jr., D, Prescott, Ariz.) missed her attempt wide right to give Asheville the advantage. After the Bulldogs' Kate Barrow's attempt sailed over the net, Liberty's Woody had a chance to tie the shootout at 3-3, but her shot was stopped in front of the net by Lazar, setting up Bradham's winning attempt.
The game was a rematch of last year's championship tilt, the first rematch of a Big South final since 2001. UNC Asheville captures its second Big South Women's Soccer Championship and first since 1995, as well as it's first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament. It was the fifth overtime championship game in league history and fourth to be decided by penalty kicks.
Liberty, which was making its fifth title game appearance, held the advantage in shots at 22-12. Katherine Neff (Sr., Guelph, Ont.) had four saves for the Lady Flames, while Lazar had five stops for the Bulldogs.
UNC Asheville, making its fourth Big South championship game appearance in five years and League-record seventh overall, receives the Conference's automatic berth to the 2006 NCAA Tournament, which begins Friday, Nov. 10, at campus sites. The Bulldogs move on with a 10-6-3.
Liberty ends the season at 9-7-1. After a slow start, the Lady Flames had a strong finish to the season with a 6-1-1 mark in their last eight matches, coming up penalty kicks short of becoming only the second team in Big South history to repeat as Big South Women's Soccer Champions. The 2000 and 2001 Lady Flames are the only repeat winners in the championship's history.
Liberty seniors Paige Cheek (D, Gambrills, Md.) and Kristin Faxon (MF, Chester, N.H.) finish their Lady Flames career by being named to the Big South All-Tournament along with junior midfielder Neff.
Asheville's Ashleigh Carter was named the Tournament's Most Valuable Player and earned a spot on the all-tournament team, which is as follows:
2006 Big South Women's Soccer All-Tournament Team
Ashleigh Carter, UNC Asheville (MVP)
Juliana Duncan, UNC Asheville
Sara Pahl, UNC Asheville
Kate Barrow, UNC Asheville
Paige Cheek, Liberty
Mallory Neff, Liberty
Kristin Faxon, Liberty
Emily McColl, Coastal Carolina
Ashleigh Gunning, Coastal Carolina
Dimitra Poulos, Winthrop
Ashley Aboud, Winthrop
Jill Boyer, Radford
Laura Eldridge, High Point
Karen Knight, Charleston Southern
Catherine Spiker, Birmingham-Southern
UNC Asheville head coach Michele Cornish
"I knew if we could get through the first half, we would be fine. We had a lot of jitters and played much better in the second half. Liberty played very well. We have been on the other end twice, and it is great to be on the winning side. Our expectations were a lot less than in past years heading into the tournament, but our girls were determined and very confident."
Liberty Coach James Price
"UNC Asheville played very well, especially on defense. Probably over the entire match, they were the better team and played well enough to win. On the other end, we did not play well enough defensively. We wish them all the best in the NCAA Tournament."