CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – No. 10 UNCG saw its record-breaking season and its 16-game winning streak come to an end in the first round of the NCAA Women's Soccer Championship on Friday, falling to No. 20 South Carolina 2-1 at Virginia's Klöckner Stadium.
The Spartans finished their season 19-2-1, matching the school record for wins and setting a new school record for fewest losses. The 16-game winning streak was also a school record.
Trailing 2-0 late in the contest, UNCG finally got on the board in the 74th minute to set up a frenetic finish. Tabitha Padgett was taken down on the right sideline with 15:25 to play, giving the Spartans a free kick. Freshman Stine Schoening played a ball into the 18-yard box that South Carolina was unable to clear, and classmate Kristen Schmidbauer found herself unmarked with the ball at her feet. Schmidbauer got off a low shot that snuck through a crowded box and into the net for her 10th goal of the season, cutting the Spartans' deficit in half.
With renewed energy, UNCG continued to pressure the South Carolina defense, even pushing keeper Kelsey Kearney into the offensive third for the final minute of action. The Spartans got off one last desperate corner kick in the final minute, but could not get off a shot as South Carolina (15-5-4) held on for the win.
"Well, we were just trying to make something happen, obviously, because we were down," UNCG coach Eddie Radwanski said. "I'm extremely proud of the kids because of their effort and their fight and their battle. What more could you ask? We were a bit unlucky today."
UNCG found itself in a hole early, thanks to an own goal in the game's third minute.
South Carolina's Christine Watts crossed the ball in from the right wing, but the ball hit UNCG midfielder Jaimey Etten in the back of the leg and ricocheted into the goal. Defender Morgan Kennedy made a sliding attempt to keep the ball out of the net, but it was to no avail as the Gamecocks jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 2:15 into the contest.
Despite the setback, the Spartans had the run of play in the first half, getting off six shots to South Carolina's three and making several solid runs.
UNCG fell victim to another early goal in the second half, as South Carolina's Danielle Au made it a 2-0 game just 58 seconds into the frame. Her blast from the top of the box found the upper right corner of the net to put the Spartans behind by two for just the second time this season.
South Carolina had another solid scoring chance just moments later, when SEC Offensive Player of the Year Kayla Grimsley got loose on a breakaway. Kearney came out and stifled the ball for one of her three saves on the evening, keeping it a two-goal game.
Padgett had one of the Spartans' best opportunities of the night with just over 20 minutes left, getting free on a breakaway of her own. South Carolina keeper Mollie Patton came off her line and got a piece of Padgett's attempt, and the ball skipped out of play to give UNCG a corner kick.
Padgett and senior Jenn Partenheimer had consecutive shots less than 30 seconds apart saved by Patton just minutes before that. Patton finished with four saves on the night.
For the Gamecocks, the own goal was the second they had witnessed in as many games – only this time, it went in their favor. South Carolina fell to Florida in the SEC Championship title game 1-0 on an own goal on Nov. 7.
The own goal was the first allowed by UNCG since Aug. 22, 2008, in a season-opening 3-2 win over Coastal Carolina.
The Spartans' contest against South Carolina was one of just two in the first round of the NCAA tournament pitting a pair of ranked teams against each other. No. 13 Illinois faced No. 22 Southern Cal in South Bend, Ind., on Friday, as well.
With her 10th goal of the season, Schmidbauer overtook Padgett for the team scoring lead. She finished her rookie campaign with 26 points on 10 goals and six assists, while Padgett finished with 25 points on 10 goals and five assists.
Kearney wrapped up the season with 12 shutouts to tie the school single-season record, while her 0.55 goals against average is the second-best in school history.
UNCG's senior class of Partenheimer, Katie Evans and Jen Rincon finished their careers as the winningest class in school history by wins and percentage. In four years, the seniors posted a 64-18-5 record (.764 winning percentage), won four Southern Conference regular-season titles and one SoCon tournament crown and made two NCAA appearances.
"I can't say enough about our kids, our seniors," Radwanski said. "They played their hearts out. I just told them, 'Hey, whatever you do, walk off the field knowing you left everything on the field.' I think they did that tonight."
No. 20 South Carolina 2, No. 10 UNCG 1
Goals by period 1 2 Tot
South Carolina...... 1 1 - 2
UNCG................ 0 1 - 1
1. 2:15 SC OWN GOAL (unassisted)
2. 45:58 SC Danielle Au (5) (unassisted)
3. 74:43 UNCG Kristen Schmidbauer (10)
Shots: South Carolina 7, UNCG 12
Saves: South Carolina 4 (Mollie Patton 4), UNCG 3 (Kelsey Kearney 3)
Corner kicks: South Carolina 4, UNCG 5
Fouls: South Carolina 6, UNCG 6
- UNCG -