CHARLESTON, S.C. - The No. 8 UNC Asheville Bulldogs pushed No. 1 Radford to the brink, but the Highlanders were able to come through in the shootout, taking a 1-1 win in the second game of the 2011 Big South Women's Soccer Championship presented by Musco Sports Lighting Thursday at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C. The Highlanders will play the No. 5 Liberty Flames Friday afternoon at 4:30pm in the semifinals, marking their first appearance in the semifinals since 2009.
Heather Muller had three first-half saves for UNC Asheville to keep score at 0-0, while the Bulldogs' Amanda Knapp took three shots but couldn't find the back of the net.
In the second half, Muller made two consecutive saves on Radford's Julie Ruh'e, but it was the Highlanders' Sahar Aflaki who would put one past Muller with 20 minutes left in regulation. With a defender on her hip, Aflaki turned inside and fired a shot that went just under the diving Muller to put RU up 1-0.
However, the Bulldogs would tie things up just three minutes later. Kaitlyn Eckert shot it past keeper Lisa Lubke to tie the match at 1-1 with 17 minutes to go in regulation.
Neither team put one on net for the next 27 minutes - through the rest of regulation and two overtime periods - forcing the shootout. Che' Brown replaced Lubke in net for the shootout, and stopped the first three Ashville shots. On the other side, Muller made two saves before RU's Caitlin Kick put the attempt in to place the Highlanders up 1-0 in the shootout.
The Bulldogs returned the favor with goals by Knapp and Frances Staelin, taking the 2-1 lead. Radford's Sydney Golden and Rachel Conway each added another to give the Big South's top-ranked team the win.
Top individual scorers Radford: Sahar Aflaki (goal); UNC Asheville: Kaitlyn Eckert (goal).
Team shots on goal: Radford - 17, Asheville - 17. Saves: Radford Lisa Lubke - (5-4) 7 saves, Che' Brown (9-1), Asheville Heather Muller - (4-15) 13 saves.
Radford improves to 13-5 on the year, while UNC Asheville ends its season at 4-15-1. Radford will be making its 11th appearance in the Big South Tournament semifinals. The Highlanders, who defeated Liberty 3-2 in the regular-season, will face the Flames in the Conference tournament for the first time since 2005 and the third time overall.
Radford Head Coach Ben Sohrabi
"It was an exciting win, the first time I've won in PK's in my 16 years at Radford. I give a lot of credit to UNC Asheville and Michelle (Demko) because she has done a tremendous job with her team. It was a scary matchup going in even though it was No. 1 vs. No. 8 and it was good to see our goalkeepers come up big again."