With 15 seconds left in the second overtime, senior Jane Cline slotted the go-ahead goal to give Appalachian State University women’s soccer the 4-3 victory over South Alabama in a Sunday afternoon thriller on Senior Day at the Ted Mackorell Soccer Complex.
“Senior Day is hard because it’s hard a thing to know that it’s the last time that they’ll get to play at home and there was a lot of pressure too as there have been some points this year that we didn’t get that I thought we deserved,” head coach Sarah Strickland said. “There was a lot of pressure on this game too for us to be guaranteed to be in the Sun Belt tournament, which is something that they obviously wanted. It was a lot going into it. It was an emotional day even though we try to minimize the emotion and just let them play loose and play free but I just thought the girls played so well.”
Strickland continued, “Our team for some reason, when we go down, we play better and I don’t know why that’s the case and I don’t like it, but them going down 1-0 made them say, ‘no, no, this is not how this is going to go down today.’ It was just a will kind of thing, they were going to will us to victory no matter what it took.”
With the win, the Mountaineers (9-7-2, 4-4-2 Sun Belt) clinch a berth in the 2016 Sun Belt Championship Tournament in Foley, Ala., while the Jaguars (12-5-1, 7-4 Sun Belt) continue to fight for the top of the conference standings.
The back-and-forth affair began from the first whistle, with both teams battling hard to own possession. With South Alabama wanting to be the outright champion of the league and Appalachian State wanting to get into the tournament, the stage was set for an instant classic.
The Jaguars put the Black and Gold on their heels early, when Steffi Hardy scored in the first minute off of a corner set piece to go up one. The Mountaineers responded quickly though, as senior Jackie Nieradka found a streaking Cline who moved past the keeper and fired it home to equalize the game.
Then, in the ninth minute, App State committed a penalty in the box to give South Alabama a PK to allow them to go up 2-1. Appalachian would tie the game again in the 26th minute when freshman Maggie Hanusek bent a beautiful ball into the uprights from 15 yards out on the left side of the field just 25 seconds after being subbed in.
With the game knotted up at halftime, the second 90 was basically a new game for each teams, but the Mountaineers came out of the gates feeling the momentum from the Hanusek equalizer. Redshirt sophomore Erin Settle then put App State up 3-2 when senior Jenn Bass found her cutting to the back corner of the net. Bass placed the ball right on Settle so that all she had to do was touch it in and the goal would be sealed.
The game seemed all but in App’s favor until a handball call gave the Jaguars a free kick right outside the box. South Alabama’s Jemma Purfield nailed the ball through the upper left corner to once again knot the game up in the 89th minute at 3-3.
The Mountaineers found themselves in a familiar place going to overtime against South Alabama. The same position the two teams were in during the 2015 Sun Belt Championship semifinals. But this time, the ending would be different.
After a shotless first overtime period, Nieradka found her senior teammate once more on the last effort attack with the time counting down, as Cline was able to scoot past the final defender to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Cline moved out right to find the angle and ripped the ball through the right side of the net to give Appalachian State the win with just 15 seconds left in the period.
The Mountaineers used a total team effort on Sunday afternoon to get the result that they needed in order to clinch a spot in the postseason. Leading the offensive attack was Cline, who finished with seven shots total and five on goal. Behind her was Hanusek who finished with four shots (one on goal) while Settle and Sarah Peatross had three shots each.
Sam Steyl played the entire 109:45 for the Black and Gold between the frames, making four saves while facing 18 shots total on the day.
Cline’s two goals give her 11 on the season and tie her first all-time in total goals in a season with Casey Cleary (2005). The goals also push Cline’s career total to 27, ranking now second all-time behind Cleary as well.
Prior to the game, Appalachian State women’s soccer recognized its seven seniors for their achievements and contributions in their careers at App: Phenix Durham, Brie Bahlmann, Aubrey Fletcher, Carrie Taylor, Cline, Nieradka, and Bass.
The Mountaineers will now move on to postseason play where they head to Foley, Ala. for the 2016 Sun Belt Championship tournament to face off against a to-be-determined opponent on Wednesday, Nov. 2. All games will be broadcast live on ESPN3.