High Point Draws No. 4 Maryland in NCAA First Round

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After winning its second-straight Big South Championship with a 1-0 overtime win against Gardner-Webb, the High Point University women’s soccer team will head to College Park, Md., to play No. 4 Maryland in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship on Friday, Nov. 12, at 5 p.m.

“It is very exciting to be back in the NCAA tournament for second year in a row,” head coach Marty Beall said.  “These girls have been working so hard throughout this entire season and have really shown the desire it takes to get back to this point.  I am extremely proud of the girls for that.”

HPU earned a share of the Big South Regular season title with a 6-2-1 record but entered this season’s Big South Women’s Soccer Championship as the No. 5 seed due to tiebreakers.  The Panthers picked up consecutive 1-0 wins over No. 4-seed Charleston Southern and No. 1-seed Winthrop to reach the finals where they played No. 7-seed Gardner-Webb.  After the two squads fought to a scoreless tie through regulation, High Point pulled out the win with a goal off a bicycle kick by senior Jillie Johnston in the 95th minute.

The Panthers are just the second team in Big South history to win two straight Big South Tournament Championships.  Liberty is the only other team to accomplish the feat, winning in 2000 and 2001.  HPU also became the first team in Big South history to record a shutout in six consecutive Big South Tournament games and the first to win four Big South tournament titles.

Junior Janay Whittaker was named Big South Tournament MVP after playing 269 of a possible 275 minutes in central defense and helping High Point to three-straight clean sheets in the competition.  Johnston, junior Andrea Ritchie and freshman Kelli Joline joined Whittaker on the All-Tournament team.

The Panthers began the year with a 2-8-0 record in non-conference play, but did pick up a 4-3 win over Clemson in Columbia, S.C.  High Point picked it up in the second-half of the season, winning nine of its final 12 games heading into the NCAA tournament including a five-game win streak to finish the season.

This will be High Point’s fourth trip to the NCAA tournament and its third in four years.  The Panthers won the Big South Championship in 2003, 2007 and 2009.  This season is the first time that HPU has not had to play North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  The Panthers are 0-3-0 in three tournament games against the Tar Heels, but last season gave UNC fits in a narrow 1-0 defeat, the closest game of the eventual national champion’s tournament.

Maryland earned a No. 1 seed in this season’s tournament after finishing with a 17-2-2 record and winning the ACC regular season with a 7-2-1 mark.  The Terrapins are led on offense by a triumvirate of attack players with juniors Jasmyne Spencer, Ashley Greene and Sade Ayinde combining for 26 goals on the season.  Spencer and Greene are tied for the team lead with nine goals apiece while Ayinde has chipped in with eight off the bench. Senior Caitlin McDowell leads the team with 11 assists on the season.  Redshirt-junior Yewande Balogun has started every game in net for Maryland, compiling a 0.86 goals-against average and four shutouts.

“It is definitely exciting to get the chance to go up and play the University of Maryland,” Beall said. “They are a fantastic team which is very well coached. Ludwig Field is an incredible soccer venue. Being from Maryland and having my entire coaching staff come from the state of Maryland, it Is very exciting for to go there and play the Terrapins. It is a huge challenge but one that our coaches and players are extremely excited about.”