Pirates fall in semis, earn berth in NCAA Tournament

By Berry Aldridge, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Nov. 3, the Armstrong women’s soccer team downed rival Clayton State 2-1 in overtime during the first round of the Peach Belt Conference Tourney. Then, in the semi-finals Saturday, Nov. 7, the Pirates lost 2-1, this time in double overtime, to the Nighthawks of North Georgia.

The first matchup against Clayton state was a vastly defensive battle. Neither team’s defense was willing to break, so it appeared that the game would go into overtime without a score.

Finally, in the 86th minute, Armstrong offense raised its intensity and forced a series of corner kicks until junior Sarah Olin cornered in a perfect ball that sophomore McKenzie Anderson was able to head in for the go-ahead goal. Anderson, a back-line defensive player, does not gather many opportunities to score, but she made the most of this one.

“This year we haven’t finished as many corner kicks as we should so every time I step up there I know I have to stay focused,” Anderson said, “ It was an amazing feeling to finally be able to finish the chances we were given.”

Despite this, the game would still not be easy to put away. Less than a minute later, Clayton State scored a goal of their own to tie things up at 1-1. That score would remain the duration of regular time.

The Pirates caught a break in overtime when a Laker player picked up her second yellow card and was ejected from the match, forcing Clayton State to play with 10 players for the remainder of the game. Luckily that came just three minutes later.

In the 96th minute, Olin again made a beautiful corner kick into the box where it was punched out by the Laker keeper to sophomore midfielder Randi Schroedel, who flicked the ball over all defenders for the “Golden Goal” game winner. It was also Schroedel’s first goal of the season.

Schroedel said, “This feels amazing because I rarely do score and even though I play a lot, you have to score to win, and I’m just really happy and it feels awesome to be able to help my team when we were in a tough spot.”

The win advanced the Pirates into the semi-finals where they would face the No. 2 team in the PBC, the North Georgia Nighthawks, in Augusta.

Armstrong jumped on the board first in the 55th minute when sophomore Jenny Allen received a throw-in, turned, and ripped a shot past the Nighthawks’ keeper for the 1-0 lead.

The Nighthawks evened the score 20 minutes later and despite a good shot from senior Taylor Valley in the 75th minute, the ball was saved and the Pirates headed into overtime yet again.

The first overtime period saw a few shots by both teams but no goals. Then, in the 101st  minute, North Georgia was awarded a corner kick which they received in the box and slipped past senior keeper Morgan Luckie for the game-winner.

At the PBC banquet before the game, sophomores Jenny Allen and Olivia DeJong were honored as All-Conference players. After the tournament, Schroedel and Anderson were honored as part of the 2015 PBC All-Tournament Team.

The Pirates awaited their fate as the NCAA selection committee announced the tournament field Monday, Nov. 9, when the team was awarded an “at-large” berth in the tournament. This is their eighth appearance in the eleven years Armstrong has had soccer and they will play Wingate on November 22 in a rematch of the first round game of the tournament last year, which the Pirates lost 1-0.