GREENSBORO, N.C. - No. 3 UNCG women's soccer sees their bid for a third straight trip to the NCAA Championship Tournament fall just short on Friday night, taking a loss to the visiting No. 2 Furman Paladins by a final of 1-0.
"It's tough for our seniors, and it's tough for every senior when the final curtain comes down," said Head Coach Michael Coll after the match. "But I said in the circle [after the match] that our seniors should be very proud of themselves. They performed very well tonight, and our seniors leave here with two rings. They won the tournament twice. Over 90 percent of student-athletes never get a ring, and never play in the NCAA Tournament, and this group did it twice. Yes it's disappointing, but they've got to be so proud of their careers."
Furman had the hot start on Friday, gaining the lead on a cross to the back post a little over two minutes after the starting whistle. The remainder of the first half belonged to the Spartans however, as the side went on to outshoot their opponents 7-2 in the latter 42 minutes of the opening term.
After going down by a goal, the Spartans nearly came back with an equalizer just five minutes later, after a cross from All-Conference midfielder Kaley Tucker was turned wide by Isabelle Blomdahl. Finishing the night with four shots apiece, Gabi Santora and Cienna Rideout would both create scoring opportunities before the halftime whistle with Santora's strike from 30 yards out clearing the crossbar by less than a foot and a Rideout header going just wide of the right post.
The Friday night semifinal would get increasingly more physical over its duration, with both sides combining for three yellows in the second half. Santora, Blomdahl and defender Marissa Ferrantino all tested the Furman keeper in the latter 45, however it would be Rideout to record the most dangerous opportunity of the night. With a Furman defender draped over her back, the senior First Team All-SoCon striker deflected a cross from Santora toward frame, but her attempt would go just high of the crossbar in the 56th minute.
Holding onto their one-goal lead, the Paladins were able to hold off the surging Spartans to deliver the 1-0 victory. UNCG's loss puts an end to the side's 2019 campaign, but has now reached the SoCon semis for a third consecutive year, falling just short of their third straight conference tournament title.
"They do everything right, this group," said Coll, when asked about what he'll remember about his 2019 team. "...They do everything right, they're fantastic people, they're wonderful students with very high individual GPAs...They've won the conference tournament twice and been in the NCAA Tournament twice. They practice at 7:30 a.m. every morning when it's cold and windy. So when I think back about this group, everyone of them will get an A-plus, plus, plus grade in my mind."
Three Things To Know
-- Seniors Cienna Rideout, Grace Kennedy, Marissa Ferrantino and Grace Regal complete their careers at UNCG with a combined win total of 43, with Rideout earning back-to-back First Team All-SoCon honors in her junior and senior season
-- The Spartans outshot the Paladins 14-13 on the night, with both sides collecting three attempts on goal
-- Head Coach Michael Coll wraps up his sixth season at the helm of UNCG with 61 wins to date, along with 102 total wins during his career coaching at the Division I level
COMING UP NEXT
With their Friday night win, the No. 2 Paladins will faceoff with SoCon regular season champions No. 1 Samford on Sunday at 2 p.m., in a battle for a bid to the 2019 NCAA Championship tournament.
-- UNCG –