It was Senior Day at UNCG Soccer Stadium on Sunday afternoon, and Kaley Tucker and Kayla Campbell scored a goal apiece to help the Spartans to a 2-0 victory over rival, East Tennessee State.
Four seniors were honored: Forward Cienna Rideout, Forward Grace Regal, Midfielder Grace Kennedy and Defender Marissa Ferrantino. Given bouquets of flowers and personalized plaques before kickoff, the Spartans were able to send out the Class of 2019 with a win—and secured the three seed in the upcoming SoCon Tournament, which opens tonight at UNCG Soccer Stadium.
It’s already been a marvelous turnaround for the Blue and Gold, who began the season at an abysmal 0-5-1, but now stand at 10-7-1 (7-2-0 in SoCon play). That’s a 10-2-0 record over the final 12 games of the season.
Now, with UNCG hosting the SoCon Tournament for the first time since 2011, the Spartans will have home field advantage throughout and enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the country.
As for Sunday’s action, UNCG shook off a sluggish start to dispatch East Tennessee State, which returned to Johnson City with a less-than-stellar 5-10-4 (1-6-2 in SoCon play) record. The Buccaneers were clearly outmatched, seeming to be just a step behind UNCG’s quick attack and strong defense. Though the Spartans struggled to communicate in the first half, leaving the UNCG coaching staff visibly frustrated on the sidelines, 2018 SoCon Player of the Year, Cienna Rideout, embarrassed the Buccaneers all afternoon.
Twice in the first half did Rideout penetrate the defense with a series of dazzling moves and sent beautiful balls into the box, only for the feeds to be knocked away. In the 42nd minute, the Spartans finally pushed through. Rideout slid the ball across the box to Kaley Tucker, who slapped a dribbling kick into the goal, just past the outstretched arms of ETSU Tess Mrozek, who finished with seven saves on the afternoon.
Besides Rideout, UNCG’s first-half offense was near-anemic, but owned the midfield and kept ETSU off the board. In the 65th minute, Kayla Campbell all but sealed the victory with a header off a UNCG corner. Though the Bucs threatened in the 71st minute, keeper Abby Buchholz made a diving save to keep the shutout intact. It was her sixth shutout of the season.
The victory follows a 3-1 win over Western Carolina on Friday night. In that game, forward Nicole Souply scored twice for the Spartans, while Rideout added another goal.
The Spartans will play on Nov. 3 at 4 p.m. against six-seed Chattanooga in a must-win matchup. With a mediocre record, the Blue and Gold will need to win the conference tournament if they want to make it to their third NCAA Tournament in four years.
UNCG has won 16 straight against Chattanooga, according to uncgspartans.com. The Spartans have gone undefeated at home since a 3-0 loss to Davidson on Sep 12.