HEADING TO THE FINAL FOUR ! Morgan Mitchell's Two Goals Send No. 7 Armstrong To Pensacola
SAVANNAH, Ga. - Junior midfielder Morgan Mitchell's two goals - the second coming in the 63rd minute to snap a 1-1 tie - have the No. 7-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State University women's soccer team heading to the NCAA Division II Women's Soccer Final Four with a 2-1 victory over No. 21 Tampa on Sunday afternoon at the Armstrong Soccer Field.
Mitchell's header off of a Kristina Pascutti cross beat Tampa keeper Emelie Karstrom, snapping the tie and Armstrong (18-2-3) withstood held off Tampa (16-6-2) to keep the Pirates advancing in its deepest-ever run into the NCAA DII Women's Soccer Championships.
The match began with Mitchell connecting on a cross from Emily Cattanach with a diving header in the fourth minute to put the Pirates up, 1-0.
Tampa equalized in the 34th minute when Amanda Pennybaker drew a penalty kick for the Spartans, and Brittan Spence - the OT game-winner for Tampa on Friday - calmly drove the ball to the right to beat Armstrong keeper Maggie Carson and draw things even at 1-1.
It was a tough defensive first half as both teams totalled just seven shots together. With the match still even, the second half saw both teams start to pick up the offensive tempo. Mitchell had another header in the 52nd minute that Karstrom saved, and after a corner kick by Tampa, Charlotte White's shot from the Spartans missed wide to the left by five feet.
A throw-in deep in Tampa's half generated the game-winning chance for Armstrong in the 63rd minute. Pascutti sent the left-footed cross into the box and Mitchell's glancing header trickled across the line for the goal. Tampa cleared the ball but the assistant linesman signalled the goal immediately.
The Spartans had a pair of shots in the next two minutes, but Armstrong held Tampa without a shot over the final 25 minutes to earn the Quarterfinal victory.
"I have a ton of respect for coach Lucey and the Tampa program," Armstrong head coach Eric Faulconer said. "When we started the program in 2005, Tampa was one of the preeminent DII programs, playing at a level we have aspired to reach."
The Pirates tied their season-record for wins with 18, matching the 2006 squad, and Armstrong soccer is now the fourth sport in the athletic department's history to reach the national semifinal or final status, joining men's and women's tennis and men's golf.
"From the beginning of the season, we made it a goal to reach the Final Four, and this team believed it could," Faulconer said. "Today was a tremendous effort from our back line to our midfield to our front runners. Morgan Mitchell has a knack for big goals and today she scored the two biggest goals of her career."
"I couldn't be more proud of our program than I am today," Faulconer said. "It's a great day to be a Pirate !"
Armstrong outshot the Spartans, 13-3 in the second half and finished the match with a 16-7 edge in shots. Karstrom made six saves in net for Tampa. Both teams were whistled for 10 fouls each and Armstrong enjoyed a 5-2 edge in corner kicks. Tampa was whistled for offsides three times while Armstrong was offsides twice.
Armstrong is only the second Peach Belt Conference school to reach the Final Four, joining Kennesaw State, who won the NCAA DII National Championship in 2003.
In the NCAA Final Four, Armstrong will now face No. 10-ranked College of Saint Rose on Thursday, December 1, in Penscola, Fla., at a time to be determined.