By Justin CaudellSports Editor
A loss to UNC-Greensboro on Oct. 10 that ended a five game winning streak did not hinder the Western Carolina Women’s Soccer Team’s moral. Two days after the loss, they returned to the win column in an overtime rally against the Phoenix of Elon on Oct. 12, and kept up their momentum to win three more, five of their final six, to end the season with a school-record nine Southern Conference victories.
In the first half of the game against Elon, Western Carolina came out attacking from the start with a lot of great opportunities early on. Two minutes into the contest, senior forward Buki Baruwa had a shot on goal, but it went high. One minute later, freshman Kayla Beauduy had an opportunity, but Elon goalie Sydney Little came up with the save.
At the 10:17 mark though, the Catamounts struck first when Beauduy put a cross into the box and junior Rachael Shomper put a header onto the back of the net over the head of Little to make it 1-0. It was Shomper’s first goal of the season.
Susannah Gianakos scored off a rebound for the Phoenix from teammate Molly Calpin to even the score at 1-1 midway through the second half.
WCU had opportunities to break the tie late in the second half, but was unable to capitalize before game’s end, forcing the contest into overtime.
The Catamounts only needed three minutes and 48 seconds in the extra period to provide the game-winning goal thanks to junior Bri Cunningham, who took a pass from junior Nikki Collins and beat the keeper Little one-on-one at the lower corner of the net for her second goal of the season and to give Western Carolina a 2-1 victory.
“This was a tremendous effort for our team,” said head coach Tammy DeCesare. “Elon was a dangerous team and we really stepped it up in the overtime to take control.”
WCU outshot Elon 11-5 in the game.
“We generated a lot of opportunities and never took charge,” DeCesare said. “You can’t let a good team hang around, but we settled in to take advantage in the end.”
Following the win against Elon, Western Carolina scored a goal in each half to defeat the Eagles of Georgia Southern 2-1 on Oct. 17.
22:00 minutes into the match, Beauduy put the Catamounts on the board after she took a pass from Cunningham and fired it into the back of the net for her third goal of the season. Western Carolina added to their lead early in the second half at the 19:00 minute mark when junior Shanna Schmoker, with an assist by Cunningham, kicked the ball past the Eagles keeper Lauren Santos.
WCU allowed a goal by Georgia Southern late in the game, but held on for the win.
On Oct. 19, the Catamounts won their third game in a row by the same margin of victory as the previous two wins, defeating the Davidson Wildcats 2-1.
Davidson struck first in the game at the 31 minut mark of the first half, but the Catamounts responded six minutes later when sophomore Erin Hamilton found the net after beating Wildcats keeper Christy Carry inside the box to tie the game 1-1.
With nine minutes left in the second half, Beauduy took advantage of a loose ball to fire the game-winning goal. With the score, Beauday notched her second game-winning goal of the year.
Western Carolina won their fourth game in a row on Oct. 24 versus Chattanooga 2-0, but in their last regular season home game of the year, they could not take down Samford to win five straight, losing 2-1.
The Catamounts made up for the loss on Oct. 30 though when they uprooted Southern Conference rivals Appalachian State 3-2.
With the win, Western Carolina ended the regualr season with a 12-7 overall record, 9-2 in the Southern Conference – a record number of wins for the 10-year-old team.
WCU began play in the Southern Conference Tournament on Nov. 2, but results were unavailable as of press time.