GREENSBORO, N.C. - The College of Charleston women's soccer team suffered a 1-0 loss in the Southern Conference Championship off an 88th-minute Bulldog mark at the UNCG Soccer Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Cougars defended well and got several incredible saves out of Cricket Wise (Walhalla, S.C.) but ultimately fell to end the team's program-record 13-win season.
Bulldog defender Adrianne Mancino scored the game's lone mark in the 88th minute off an individual effort.
Samford remains unbeaten in 14 matches and earns the SoCon's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs will discover their opening round opponent and location during the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, Nov. 7 at 4:30 p.m.
"It was a phenomenal season for College of Charleston women's soccer," said head coach Christian Michner. "We fought from the beginning to the end and this match was no different. Samford is an absolutely fantastic team and worthy champion of our conference.
"Our girls played their tails off today and deservedly so, we were in the match. It's the little things that separate teams and they got the break and we didn't."
The first 20 minutes of the match were played mostly conservatively in the middle third of the pitch with no real chances yielded either way.
The Cougars eased into their more-offensive style and saw some quality chances around the 24th minute with a pair of headers by Atkinson. The first came on a low cross by Gmerek which crept inches over the crossbar and the second came on a summersault-style throw-in by McCallie Jones (Charlotte, N.C.) which was saved by Samford keeper Alyssa Whitehead for the first shot on goal of the match.
In the 35th minute, Samford was awarded a penalty kick after a threatening run ended with a tie-up in the box. Sophomore forward Shanika Thomas stepped to the ball and Wise rose to the occasion with a diving save to her right-hand side.
The first half ended in bizarre style when there was a pile-up with players from both sides on top of the ball in front of the Cougar goal. The referee stopped the clock to sort the play with four seconds remaining and granted Samford an indirect kick from inside the penalty area just six yards away. The Cougars stacked the goal line and Samford fired a shot over the crossbar as time expired.
The Cougars had a 2-1 shot-on-goal advantage after 45 minutes of play with the Cougars' coming from Atkinson and Samford's on the penalty kick by Thomas.
Samford birthed the most opportunities in the second half as they pushed into the Cougars' end around the 60 minute mark. Trine Taule thought she might have notched the game's first mark when she headed a corner kick on goal but Francesca Kentimenos (Stony Point, N.Y.) was up against the post and saw the ball into touch. Moments later, Amanda Abbott made a sliding point-blank shot but Wise stifled the effort and covered up any potential rebound effort.
Wise made another brilliant save in the 76th minute as she dove to her right to collect a free kick taken by Thomas from 34 yards.
Mancino finally broke the scoreless tie when she collected a ball with room to run down the right-hand side of the pitch. She touched a shot from 25 yards out which slid just below the crossbar and out of Wise's reach for the game winner.
"I couldn't be more proud of our girls and where we're at," said Michner. "This program should make it a tradition to play in SoCon championship games and that's where we're headed I hope."