CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Sophomore Lauren Hein scored a pair of goals as top-seeded and 14th-ranked UNCG downed No. 5 seed Elon in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Women's Soccer Championship at the Catamount Athletic Complex on Friday, 2-0. With the win, UNCG moves on to face No. 2 seed Samford in the title game Sunday at 1 p.m.
UNCG's win was its school-record 15th straight, moving the Spartans' record to 18-1-1 on the season. Elon finished its season at 12-8-1.
Hein picked up her sixth goal of the season in the game's 14th minute, nodding a Cat Barnekow pass into the left corner of the goal to put the Spartans on top 1-0.
Barnekow and Hein hooked up again in the 63rd minute, as Barnekow nodded on a Morgan Kennedy free kick to Hein. Hein buried that one into the right corner to give the Spartans a little breathing room.
Barnekow had a chance for a goal of her own just minutes after Hein's first score, but her shot was saved on the line by an Elon defender to keep it a one-goal game at the time.
Aside from Hein's strike, neither side mustered much in the way of offense in the first half, as the teams combined for just four shots. Elon's lone attempt came in the 18th minute, but UNCG keeper Kelsey Kearney saved Chelsey Stark's attempt.
Stark had the Phoenix's only other attempt on frame in the contest, as her shot in the 86th minute was also saved by Kearney.
The Spartans applied the offensive pressure in the second half, getting off nine shots in the frame. Barnekow had four of them, with Elon keeper Kristen Haney stopping the only one that was on goal.
UNCG outshot Elon 12-4 on the night.
"First, congratulations to Elon for their performance for the season," UNCG coach Eddie Radwanski said. "Coach (Chris) Neal has done a great job there. In a short period of time, he's turned that program into one of the top four in the SoCon. They always compete and they give us a good game, and we've got a lot of respect for them.
"The first half wasn't a particularly pretty soccer game, but we did well to get a goal. It was a great ball from Cat; she served it in and Lauren really did fantastic to finish that ball with her head into the side net. It was an extremely well-taken goal. That helped the game to settle a little bit. I thought our kids made really good adjustments at halftime, came out and played a little bit more to our strengths."
Kearney stopped two shots on the night for her 11th shutout of the season, tied for second-most in school history in a single season and matching the career high she posted as a freshman in 2008. It was also the 30th shutout of her career, making her just the second keeper in SoCon history to reach that milestone.
Hein's multi-goal game was her first this season and the third of her career, giving her a career-high seven goals this season. Barnekow's pair of assists pushed her SoCon-leading total to 13 on the year, tied for third-most in a single season in school history. She entered the weekend eighth nationally in assists.
UNCG advances to the title game for the ninth time in school history. The Spartans are 6-1-1 in the title game, but have not won it since 2006. Sunday's appearance will be UNCG's fourth title game in the last five years. UNCG has won the regular-season title in each of the last five seasons, including this year, when it posted an 11-0-0 SoCon record.
In addition to going for its seventh tournament title, UNCG will also be trying to match the school record for wins, set in 1997. That squad finished 19-6-0.
The Spartans are seeking their first NCAA tournament berth since receiving an at-large bid in 2007. The winner of the SoCon Championship will receive the league's automatic berth into the tournament. Samford earned its spot in the title game by scoring in the 86th minute to snap a 3-all tie and take a 4-3 win over No. 3 seed The Citadel in Friday's other semifinal.
"We're excited to advance to the final," Radwanski said. "This is part of one of our goals. We want to be in position to play for a championship. We're coming out Sunday to win."
UNCG 2, Elon 0
Goals by period 1 2 Tot
Elon................ 0 0 - 0
UNCG................ 1 1 - 2
1. 13:55 UNCG Lauren Hein (6) (Cat Barnekow)
2. 62:51 UNCG Lauren Hein (7) (Cat Barnekow;Morgan Kennedy)
Shots: Elon 4, UNCG 12
Saves: Elon 2 (Kristen Haney 1; TEAM 1), UNCG 2 (Kelsey Kearney 2)
Corner kicks: Elon 2, UNCG 4
Fouls: Elon 3, UNCG 5
- UNCG -