2018 was a marvelous year for UNCG Soccer. Women’s Soccer specifically shined in the SoCon Tournament, notching victories firstly against VMI and then against East Tennessee State. Coming into the conference tournament as the second seed, the Spartans were able to overtake ETSU by a crushing victory of 5-1 to continue on to the SoCon championship game against the Furman Paladins.
The first goal of the game came in the 31st minute off the foot of Spartan player Emily Jensen. She was assisted by Heida Ragney Vidarsdottir’s free kick. The final nail in Furman’s coffin came just a few minutes later in the 40th minute on a goal from Grace Regal. She was assisted by Cienna Rideout in the box. Furman did eventually make the score 2-1 in the 75th minute, but that wasn’t enough to overcome UNCG’s two-goal lead.
Fueled by a stout defense and two early goals, UNCG claimed the SoCon Tournament Championship and earned an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Goalkeeping from the Blue and Gold was excellent as well. Aiyanah Tyler-Cooper had six saves in the game. If she hadn’t been on her game, the match could’ve been easily tied or lost for the Spartans, so she deserves a lot of credit for this victory.
The Spartans then hit the road to face off against third-seed South Carolina in the first round of the tournament on Nov. 9. The first goal in the game came in the 32nd minute from Elexa Bahr of the Gamecocks. UNCG realized how important it was to not fall too far behind so eight minutes later, in the 40th minute, Heida Ragney Vidarsdottir got the ball in the net. The play started with a corner kick from Grace Kennedy to Cienna Rideout, in which the ball rebounded to Vidarsdottir who scored.
Heading into the second half, South Carolina scored once more in the 50th minute thanks to Lauren Chang, who headed the ball past UNCG goalkeeper Aiyanah Tyler-Cooper. Chang was assisted by Jyllissa Harris. The score was 2-1 at this point, and the Gamecocks would score once more to seal the victory in the 61st minute off the head of Jyllissa Harris.
The final score of the game was a margin of 3-1 by the Gamecocks. The Spartans fought hard but were unable to move forward into the second round. Tyler-Cooper recorded five saves on the afternoon, but it wasn’t quite enough. Offensively, the Spartans were simply overmatched by South Carolina, being on the short end of the stick in corner kicks, shots on goal, and shots were taken.
This team had a wonderful season overall. Their final record was 15-5-1. They won their second SoCon championship in a row and will be looking to increase that record into next season. They will only be losing a few seniors going into the following season, which will not hamper team chemistry all that much. The team overall is very young, and they will only continue to improve. The coaching staff is devoted to the team and is excited for the future, so keep an eye on the Spartans as they continue growing and meshing as a unit. They will only be getting better, and UNCG Women’s Soccer continues to be the pride of the Southern Conference.