BELMONT, N.C. --- The top-seeded Belmont Abbey College women's soccer team fought off countless rallies by fourth-seeded Lees-McRae en route to a hard-earned 3-2 victory on Thursday, while clinching a spot in the 2010 Conference Carolinas Tournament Final for the sixth straight season.
Lees-McRae (14-6) outshot the Abbey (17-1-2) by a 15-12 margin, including a 7-5 advantage in the second half. The contest featured five different goal scorers, as Conference Carolinas Second Team selection Vickie Rich (Arlington Heights, Ill.) posted a match-high three points with a goal and an assist.
Nicole Voets (Chatsworth, Calif.), Connie Axiotis (Arlington, Va.), and Rebecca Mateo (Cotati, Calif.) each scored for the Crusaders, while Rich and MaryBeth Sullivan (Greensboro, N.C.) found the back of the net for the Lady Bobcats. Kristin Foster (Davidson, N.C.) tallied an assist for the Abbey, while Rich and Katy McGee (Hudson, Fla.) each notched a helper for LMC. Conference Carolinas Player of the Year Anna Donaldson (Neptune Beach, Fla.) recorded nine saves for Belmont Abbey, while Brittany Bolton (Roanoke, Va.) posted a pair of stops for the Lady Bobcats.
Voets opened the scoring midway through the 13th minute, knocking in a free header off a corner kick from Foster to give the Abbey an early 1-0 lead. Rich leveled the score at 1-1 less than two minutes later, tapping a finish past the Abbey keeper off a set piece from McGee for her 11th goal of the season.
Axiotis reclaimed the lead for Belmont Abbey midway through the 28th minute, sending a masterful strike into the far top corner from just inside the area to send the Crusaders into the interval with a 2-1 lead. Sullivan would nearly pull the Lady Bobcats back on terms in the 37th minute, forcing Donaldson to make a magnificent save on a volley from just outside the area to preserve the lead.
The Lady Bobcats would answer early in the second half, evening the score at 2-2 midway through the 49th minute on Sullivan's 14th goal of the season. The all-Conference Carolinas First Team selection showed great touch on the finish, redirecting a curling cross from Rich into the bottom corner for the equalizer.
Mateo would provide the eventual winner early in the 52nd minute, taking advantage of a misplayed ball by the Lady Bobcat defense and tucking the finish into the bottom corner to give the Abbey a 3-2 lead. Lees-McRae's Katelyn Custer (Mooresville, N.C.) narrowly missed a glorious equalizing bid in the 80th minute, sending a brilliant curling strike just over the bar from the top of the area.
Lees-McRae ends its season with a 14-6 overall record and an 8-2 mark in league play, while also positing the program's first top-four finish in the conference standings since 2003. The Lady Bobcats are expected to return 16 letter-winners from this season's squad, including all-conference first team selections Sullivan, Brooke Santerre (Port Republic, Md.), Mary Dorn (Shallot, N.C.).
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