HICKORY, N.C. -- Belmont Abbey advanced to the NCAA tournament round of 16 for the first time since the field was expanded to 48 teams as it defeated the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears 7-6 on penalty kicks after the two teams battled to a 1-1 tie through 110 minutes of regulation. The match is officially a draw as Crusaders advance past the second round for the first time in school history with a mark of 15-3-4, while Lenoir-Rhyne ends its season with a record of 14-4-2.
The contest was played in a steady downpour which started in the second half -- after a constant mist through the first 45 minutes -- and continued through the match.
Belmont Abbey moves on to face the top seed in the region, the Wingate Bulldogs, on Friday with a time and a location to be determined later.
The tie gives the Abbey an all-time record of 4-6-1 in the NCAA tournament and was the first time the Crusaders have advanced past the second round.
Lenoir-Rhyne struck first in the 32nd minute on a goal from Amber Madriga. The Bears maintained their lead until the 58th minute, when the Abbey's increased offensive pressure was rewarded with a goal.
Jillian Lang soared a corner kick to the far post, where Meghan Philp rose above everyone and headed home her tenth goal of the season to pull the Abbey level.
Neither team scored again, but Lenoir-Rhyne had the best chance to take the lead in the 74th minute when Miranda Simon's shot hit the crossbar.
After two overtimes did not settle a winner, the two teams went to a penalty kick shootout, the Abbey's third in the past four matches.
The first seven shots found the back of the net, but Philp's shot was saved on the Abbey's fourth attempt. Needing just a goal to advance, Simon's spot kick sailed five feet over the bar to keep the Abbey alive.
The next five kicks were successful, but Hannah Kohls setup the Abbey's hopes when she swatted away Kendall Smith's attempt.
Needing just a conversion to advance, Simone Melvin beat Andrea Leano to send the Crusaders into the last 16.
Lenoir-Rhyne, which was eliminated by the Abbey for the second consecutive year, outshot the Crusaders 20-11, but Belmont Abbey held a 5-4 edge in corner kicks. Kohls stopped nine shots, while Leano made five saves.