Hickory, NC – Despite allowing a goal in the opening two
minutes of play, the third-seeded Columbus State women's soccer
team rebounded to defeat sixth-seeded Lees-McRae 3-1 in the first
round of the NCAA Division II Women's Soccer Tournament. CSU
improves to 16-4-2 on the season and advance to play second-seeded
Lenoir-Rhyne in the second round. L-M ends its season with a
Lees-McRae took the opening kickoff and quickly put the Columbus State backline under pressure. MaryBeth Sullivan took a shot from about 20 yard which CSU goalkeeper Mary Mancin knocked over the goal giving the Bobcats a corner kick. On the ensuing play, Mary Dorn again hit a long range shot this one hitting the crossbar and ricocheting to Sullivan who easily tapped in the goal for the early 1-0 lead for the sixth seed.
From that point forward, Columbus State flexed its muscles and controlled the play of the game. Over the final 88 minutes of play, the Lady Cougars outshot L-M 28-4 including an 18-2 edge in the second half.
A minute and a half after the Bobcats went ahead, Kiana Nicholson took on a host of L-M defenders getting by two before the third defender took the PBC Freshman of the Year down in the box setting up a penalty kick. Stephanie Lowery calmly stepped up and placed the ball to the bottom right corner knotting the game at 1-1 just 3:23 into the match.
Columbus State had several opportunities to get the go-ahead goal in the first half, but was unable to crack through. Jaci Carithers had a pair of shots that were headed to the back of the net but an L-M defender made the save keeping the score tied. Ashton Ziadie then ripped a shot from 25-yards out to the upper-left ninety, but Kaitlyn Briggs was in perfect position for the stop.
Although the Lady Cougars didn't play their best first half, they were able to dictate the play and headed into the break square at one. An even more aggressive push by Columbus State in the final 45 minutes of action ensued from the break as they fired off seven shots in the opening five minutes. The final shot of that flurry came off the foot of Nicholson who was denied by a diving save by Brigs.
Later in the half, Kansas Bayly, the PBC Co-Player of the Year, had back-to-back chances within a minute but came up on the short end of the stick.
Finally in the 67th minute, Lowery struck again with a beautiful free kick that went into the right upper-ninety putting CSU ahead 2-1. Nearly 18 minutes, Nicholson iced the game ripping a shot from just inside the penalty box that went over an outstretched Briggs.
For the match, Columbus State held a decisive 28-8 advantage in shots and a 10-2 edge in corner kicks. Lees-McRae was called for 12 fouls while CSU was whistled for six.
Mary Mancin earned the win improving to 16-4-2 making four saves in the contest. Briggs did her best to keep Lees-McRae in the match making seven saves despite allowing three goals.
The win sets up a rematch with Lenoir-Rhyen who bested Columbus State 1-0 earlier this season. The Lady Cougars held a 16-9 edge in the match including a 14-2 edge in the second half but were unable to net a goal. Since that game, CSU has won 10 of their last 11 matches allowing just six goals during that span. The two sides also squared off last season in the second round of the NCAA Tournament as the Bears upset Columbus State 1-0 in Columbus. Kickoff for the match is set for 2:00 p.m.