Boiling Springs, N.C. - Freshman Samantha Gutierrez scored the go-ahead goal in the first half and fellow freshman Tara Woelfel added a second goal on a penalty kick at the end of the opening period as Gardner-Webb pitched a shutout to defeat VMI, 2-0, in Big South Conference women's soccer action Sunday afternoon.
With the win, the Runnin' Bulldogs pick up its second Big South win of the season, moving closer to securing a spot in the League's postseason tournament with three conference matches remaining in the regular season.
Gardner-Webb (3-11-1, 2-5-1) came out firing on a day celebrating its 2012 senior class, displaying an aggressive approach indicative of its need to grab a conference win in its last Big South home tilt.
A 2nd minute run by speedy freshman forward Shelby Hooe (Mechanicsville, Va.) resulted in a blocked shot taken by redshirt junior Karyn Latorre (Bogota, Colombia). Freshman Brooke Kelly (Lawrenceville, Ga.) took the corner, and after the ball stayed in the box, Latorre fired a shot on frame. VMI keeper Mackenzie Harrmann collected the save to keep the score 0-0 early.
After an 8th minute shot attempt by Woelfel was blocked, the Runnin' Bulldogs would capitalize a minute later when sophomore Addison Abee (Charlotte, N.C.) made a nice run from her defensive backline position to feed freshman midfielder Samantha Gutierrez (Austin, Texas) just outside the VMI box. Gutierrez laced a shot upper right to find the back of the net, recording her second goal of the season to put GWU on top 1-0 early.
Gardner-Webb continued to control the pace of the match early in the first half, possessing the ball consistently inside the VMI defensive zone. Gardner-Webb owned a 12-3 shot advantage in the opening period of play.
The Gardner-Webb defensive backline displayed quick footwork and heady decision-making Sunday in keeping VMI from gaining quality looks on goal. Senior defender Taylor Napoli (Wyomissing, Pa.) worked alongside Abee, sophomore Ele Margelos (North Potomac, Md.), and Kelly to solidify the backline effort for the Runnin' Bulldogs Sunday afternoon.
After a VMI foul gave the Runnin' Bulldogs a free kick in VMI's half of the field, Kelly fired an attempt toward the back post. Napoli hustled to get a head on Kelly's kick, but her attempt in the 14th minute went wide.
Another run by Hooe in the 27th threatened deep in VMI's defensive backfield, as the freshman hustled to get a foot on a loose ball inside the box. Her attempt flew just wide of the left post and the score remained 1-0 in favor of the home team.
Gardner-Webb continued to pressure VMI, looking for a two goal scoring margin of separation. Sophomore Megan Curan (Mooresville, N.C.) attempted a shot in the 28th minute, but her scoring bid was blocked by a collapsing Keydet defense.
VMI (1-13, 0-8) got a good look at the Gardner-Webb goal in the 37th minute, as the Keydet forwards were able to navigate the Runnin' Bulldog defense to find space for Nicole Blixt to uncork a shot. Her attempt went just over the hands of GWU keeper Amy Schmitt (Waxhaw, N.C.), bouncing off the crossbar. GWU cleared the ball away to end the scoring threat mounted by the visitors.
In the 42nd minute, fresman Tara Woelfel (Thurmont, Md.) hustled to gain possession on a long run down the right sideline before being fouled inside the VMI box. Woelfel made good on her penalty kick attempt to put the Runnin' Bulldogs up 2-0 entering the half.
Gardner-Webb's defensive effort continued to limit any opportunities mounted by the Keydets out of the break. Napoli led a backline which allowed a season best three shots on goal for the visitors in the match.
Schmitt collected her a save off a 51st minute shot attempt by VMI's Courtney Mason, keeping her team on top 2-0 as the Runnin' Bulldogs weathered a more aggressive approach employed by the Keydets in the second half.
The Gardner-Webb offense responded, earning numerous opportunities offensively to earn a third goal and keep the ball away from a hungry VMI offense. Sharp midfield work from Gutierrez, Curan, and Latorre created scoring chances for the Gardner-Webb forwards early and often in the second half.
Freshman Nichole Poppe (Youngsville, N.C.) worked the ball forward in the 58th minute, but her shot went wide. Arielle McCarthy Crum-Ewing (Oshawa, Ontario, Canada) took a through ball from Gutierrez for the first of her three shot attempts on the day, but Harrmann was there for the save.
Gardner-Webb evened its first half shot total for the second half with 12, though the Runnin' Bulldog backline ensured that another goal would not be needed as VMI would get no closer, and GWU came away with a 2-0 win in its final home contest of the 2012 season.
Offensively, Woelfel (1 goal, 6 shots on goal) and Gutierrez (1 goal, 2 shots on goal), with Abee tacking on her first assist of the season (2nd career).
Senior Mariah Peters (Lorton, Va.) made the start for the Runnin' Bulldogs, playing 8 scoreless minutes in the final home match of her collegiate career. Schmitt collected the win, collecting 3 saves in 81 minutes in goal to pick up her 3rd shutout win of the 2012 season.
Harrmann took the loss for VMI, picking up 8 saves.
Gardner-Webb seniors Sarah Morabito (Irmo, S.C.), Napoli, and Peters were recognized prior to the start of Sunday's match, honoring their contributions to the University and to Gardner-Webb women's soccer throughout their collegiate careers.
The Runnin' Bulldogs open a regular season-ending three game road stretch on Thursday, October 18 with a 3:00 p.m. match at UNC Asheville. VMI hosts fellow Big South foe Liberty for a 4:00 p.m. match on Thursday, October 18.
VMI will return to the pitch on Thursday, Oct. 18 as it hosts Liberty at 4:00pm.