BANNER ELK, N.C. – For the first time in school history, the King University women's soccer team has advanced to the second round of the Conference Carolinas Tournament.
Since becoming full NCAA Division II members in 2010, the Tornado (6-10-2) had gone 0-2 all-time in Conference Carolinas Tournament games. But Paula Doran's first goal of the season in the 58th minute gave the Tornado a 1-0 lead, and the defense, led by goalkeeper Nicole Dagher, held off Lees-McRae (10-7-1) over the final half hour to give King a 1-0 victory, a berth in the conference semifinals on Thursday, and the program's biggest win since it began NCAA competition.
Doran's goal came after the Bobcats had dominated the stat sheet for nearly the entire game to that point. Lees-McRae had taken 20 total shots in the game to King's two, but Dagher's seven saves kept the Tornado from falling behind. With 58 minutes gone by, Rachel Thorpe sent a pass to the feet of Shalisa Barnett streaking down the right sideline and continued a run into the box. Barnett's cross that Thorpe attempted to head into the net was just high. But Doran, a freshman midfielder, made a secondary run into the box and was there to redirect the ball out of the air and past the goalkeeper, who had come out to defend against Thorpe's header. A wild celebration along the Tornado sideline ensued.
The Bobcats had ample time to mount a comeback, and the offense applied relentless pressure to the Tornado back line over the remainder of the game. But Dagher finished the match with 12 saves, five of which came on 13 shots after the Tornado took the lead, and the King defense turned away numerous scoring opportunities to preserve the tenuous advantage.
The first half was played to a scoreless draw, with most of the action taking place on the Tornado's defensive half. King finished the half with just one shot to the Bobcats' 17, but the King defense was impenetrable.
The Bobcats dominated the match statistics. Lees-McRae outshot the Tornado 34-3, led in shots on goal 12-1, and held a 7-0 advantage in corner kicks.
Doran's goal broke an 840-minute scoreless streak by Lees-McRae goalkeeper Kaitlyn Briggs, and was the first goal conceded by the Bobcats since an October 3 win at Pfeiffer eight matches ago. Briggs had allowed just eight goals in over 1200 minutes coming into the match, stopping nearly 90% of opponents' shots.
The win was King's first over Lees-McRae since August 29, 2007, snapping a five-game losing skid against the Bobcats. King became the first No. 8 seed in the Conference Carolinas Tournament to defeat a top-seeded team since at least the 2006 season, and snapped a ten-match unbeaten streak by Lees-McRae.
With the win, King will travel to face No. 4 seed Pfeiffer at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday. The Falcons advanced to the conference semifinals by virtue of a 3-1 win over No. 5 seed Converse on Monday afternoon. Pfeiffer defeated the Tornado 4-0 on September 21 in a match in Bristol.