By Jake Crouse, Copy Editor
After falling to Mercer in an overtime thriller in the SoCon title game last year, Furman women’s soccer exacted vengeance in a 1-0 overtime win to earn the 2015 SoCon championship title. The tournament was held at the Eugene Stone Stadium at Furman and featured all the ups and downs of exciting soccer.
The first game of the tournament packed the bleachers as Furman took on inter state rival Wofford in the quarterfinals. However, the match turned out to be one-sided, as senior All-SoCon attacker Stephanie DeVita achieved her second career hat trick to give the Paladins a 3-0 victory. DeVita began her hot streak in the second minute, and the offense didn’t let up during the match, creating seven shots on goal.
Senior goalie Maggie Grisell shut out the Wofford attack alongside her defense, which allowed only one shot on goal.
Furman carried that momentum into the semifinal against UNC-Greensboro, but a quick goal in the eleventh minute from the Spartans put the Paladins in a tough situation. It would take until the eighty-third minute for DeVita to score off a pass from sophomore midfielder Rachel Shah, tying the game at 1-1. Just when the game seemed to be headed to overtime, DeVita let a shot rip from outside the box. The ball took a slight deflection off a UNC-Greensboro defender and landed just over the goalie’s reach with five seconds left in regulation, giving the Paladins a 2-1 win.
Grisell made four saves to hold the UNC-Greensboro offense to a single goal, including two saves in the first eight minutes of play.
The win gave Furman the opportunity to face Mercer again and take the SoCon title from the Bears, who pried it from Furman last year. Even with a number of good opportunities, including a shot off the crossbar from sophomore defensive midfielder Sanon Williams, niether Furman nor Mercer could find any points in regulation. It took until 105’ for DeVita to connect on a pass in the box from Shah, which she flighted perfectly into the right side upper ninety for the win. The goal gave DeVita the league-leading goals this season (18), school-record number of game-winning goals (29) and added to her SoCon record of career goals (68).
The defense fought off the Mercer attack for most of the game, forcing Grisell to make six saves on nine shots on goal.
In a postgame interview, DeVita said the home field advantage made this championship even sweeter than the first.
“Being at home with our fans…made it so much better,” DeVita said. “This is like a dream come true.”
But do not let the defense go unnoticed for its effort. While the offense created six goals, the defense allowed only one goal in three games, and Grisell said in a postgame interview that she could not have had that kind of success without a strong backfield.
“Our back line did fantastic,” Grisell said. “[They] saved me so much.”
In the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday, though, the Paladins fell 3-0 to the seventh-ranked Clemson Tigers on the road. Furman created only two shots, neither of which were on goal.
Also, this month DeVita and junior forward Carlie Couch received All-SoCon first team distinctions, and senior defender Emily Graves earned All-SoCon second team honors. Freshman Amani Bright was named to the SoCon All-Freshman team.