Nov. 14, 2010

Courtesy of St. Edward's

AUSTIN, Texas - It took almost three hours to decide a winner but as Abilene Christian's Ashley Holton's shootout attempt bounced off of the goalpost, #8 St. Edward's took home victory, defeating #23 Abilene Christian in penalty kicks, 4-3. The victory sends the Hilltoppers to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the second-straight season and third time in program history.

The match started off with St. Edward's (16-1-2) controlling the pace of play. The Hilltoppers got off six shots in the first 20 minutes and also had three corner kicks as the possession stayed in the Abilene Christian end the majority of the time. Finally, in the 21st minute, St. Edward's broke through. After a scramble in the box, Janae Averett (Senior, Round Rock, Texas) came away with the ball and left it off for Kelly Servage (Junior, North Richland Hills). The forward ripped a shot from 10 yards out through a crowd of players and past the Wildcat goalkeeper for a 1-0 St. Edward's lead.

The Hilltoppers continued to pressure Abilene Christian (17-3-1) over the next 10 minutes; gaining three more cornerkicks in the process, but couldn't put another one in the net.

The Wildcats finally started to get their offense going in the 38th minute when Holton sent a shot in on goal but Hilltopper goalkeeper Troi Jorgensen (Senior, Cypress, Texas) was there for the save.

In the 40th minute, after a collision at midfield between two players, Abilene Christian's Andrea Carpenter picked up the loose ball and beat two Hilltopper defenders and shot one past Jorgensen to the far post and in to knot the score.

That is how the first half ended. St. Edward's dominated the stats, outshooting the Wildcats, 9-3, but the scoreboard read 1-1, and Abilene Christian had the momentum going in its favor.

In the second half, the defenses started to clamp down as Servage had the only shot taken by either team the entire way as they headed for overtime.

In the first overtime, each team had its chance for a goal, but a shot by Servage and Jordan Ynostrosa (Junior, The Colony, Texas) each were saved by the Wildcat goalkeeper Elliott London. Krysta Grimm had a chance from outside the box, but her shot went over the crossbar and we were headed for the second overtime.

In the second overtime, St. Edward's had two more shots, including a volley by Servage from 25 yards out that just went over the goal.

So for the third time in the Hilltoppers' last four postseason matches, it would come down to penalty kicks.

"You have to have confidence in yourself when taking penalty kicks," Servage said. "We practiced penalty kicks all week, because we know that it is a hard way to lose and you have to be prepared for them come playoff time."

Rachel Murray missed to open the penalty kicks, but Julie Coppedge also missed for the Wildcats to keep the score even. After Emilia Gothe (Freshman, Taby, Sweden) made her kick to put St. Edward's ahead, 1-0, Hilltopper goalkeeper Danielle Licarione (Freshman, Houston, Texas), who came off of the bench for the penalty kicks, made the save on Andrea Carpenter's second Wildcat attempt. The two teams would then make their next two attempts and it came down to the final kick for each team. Katy Sutton (Senior, Arlington, Texas) had her attempt saved by London and Ashley Simon tied it up with her make. In extra kicks, Servage calmly stepped up and knocked it home. That set the stage for Holton, and the forward clanked her shot off of the right post, sending the Hilltoppers into a celebratory dogpile.

"When you have two evenly-matches teams, there is a good chance it will come down to penalty kicks," head coach Nick Cowell said. "We put Danielle in goal because she is our best goalkeeper on penalty kicks. She came up big for us today, just like so many of our girls. This was a total team effort."

The Hilltoppers outshot Abilene Christian, 14-4, and had 10 cornerkicks compared to six for the Wildcats.

St. Edward's will wait for the official word from the NCAA but is expected to host next weekend's NCAA Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds here on the Hilltop. Check the Hilltopper Athletic Website for more information.