Dec. 3, 2010

By Douglas Pils

No one is ever going to confuse senior defender Sarah Stansell for being Hardin-Simmons fastest player.

Especially not on a night where she missed 30 minutes in the second half while trainers worked on a hamstring cramp against Otterbein in the NCAA Division III womens soccer semifinals.

But she had the fastest run of the night after her penalty kick put the Cowgirls in their first national final after a 0-0 tie ended with them winning on penalty kicks 4-2 at the Blossom Soccer Complex.

I was pretty excited,” Stansell said of her spirited run to join her teammates at midfield.

Amy Kuykendall, Becca Gault, Caryln Powers and Stansell made penalty kicks.

Goalkeeper Rebecca Roth, whose stellar play made overtime and the penalty kicks possible, stopped the Cardinals third shot by Laura Vasbinder after the second kick by Alyssa Hale hit the right post.

It was a great feeling,” said Roth, who was forced to make a season-high seven saves. It felt just as great to get to the penalty kicks thanks to (my teammates).”

Hardin-Simmons (24-0) will play for its first team championship in any sport as a D-III member against the winner of the second semifinal between Messiah and William Smith at 5 p.m. (CST) on Saturday.

This was the first national semifinal for Hardin-Simmons and Otterbein, and neither wanted their trip to end. The teams who combined to give up nine goals this season played 110 minutes without giving up a goal.

The Cardinals (21-1-3) suffered their first loss, but they controlled much of the game by keeping the Cowgirls out of the middle of the field.

Theyve got some fast players,” Otterbein coach Brandon Koons said. Our goalkeeper and our defenders did a good job. We made an adjustment at halftime to push them outside and made some tactical changes.”

Hardin-Simmons entered the game as the second-leading scoring team in Division III with 111 goals, but the Otterbein defense held sisters Amy and Katie Kuykendall, who combined for 38 goals and 31 assists this season, in check. The Cowgirls, who averaged 28 shots per game, were limited to 13 shots and only four on goal. They had no shots on goal in overtime.

They won so many of the 50-50 battles that they had the ball more,” Hardin-Simmons coach Marcus Wood said. They turned our backs and we couldnt get a hold of the ball. It took us forever to generate some attacks.”

The Cardinals entered the game 106th in Division III at 2.32 goals per game, but they controlled the action. The Cowgirls had more shots at 13-11, but Otterbein put more on goal at 7-4

We expected them to sit back a little bit, but they didnt sit back on us,” Wood said. This was a very, very good team. They beat us in a lot of ways in the battles.”

Otterbeins best chance came in the 41st minute of the second half. Lindsey Rudibaugh, who was forced to miss the regional final victory over Denison because of two yellow cards in the Round of 16, drilled a shot from 30 yards out that was heading for the top of the goal.

But Roth leaped and poked it over the net, in essence forcing overtime.

She pulled the game right out of the net,” Wood said. That ball was well hit.”

Hardin-Simmons had a couple of chances in OT, but the way both teams were playing defense, it was apparent the game was heading to penalty kicks.