ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Courtney Mason scored two goals, including the tying marker with under 10 minutes to go, but the UNC Asheville Bulldogs scored in the 81st and 85th minutes, breaking that tie and going on to a 4-2 victory over the VMI Keydets in Big South women’s soccer action Thursday in Asheville, N.C.
VMI’s Mason, who had tied the game 1-1 in the fifth minute with her first career goal, tallied off a Liz Affronti pass with 9:35 remaining in regulation, tying the score at 2 apiece. Just 23 seconds later, however, Kennedy Garrett found the back of the net for UNC Asheville (3-8, 1-2 Big South), giving the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish. Melanie Cusi added the insurance goal just under four minutes later, accounting for the final margin.
The Keydets (1-8, 0-3 BSC) held their own offensively in the match, accounting for nine shots, including six in the second half. Mason’s two goals make her the second VMI freshman to find the net this season, as she joins Erika Boggs, who tallied the game winner Sept. 1 against USC Aiken.
Mason also becomes the first Keydet to score multiple goals since Oct. 15, 2011 against Gardner-Webb, when Sarah Strand accomplished the feat, and Mason is the first freshman to accomplish that feat since Nov. 2, 2008, when Amanda Berrios did so. Strangely, Berrios' two-goal game was also against Gardner-Webb.
The host Bulldogs jumped on the board quickly, as Kelsey Palmer found Amanda Knapp for the game’s first goal just 1:09 into the contest. It was Knapp’s third goal of the season, and Asheville was staked to a 1-0 lead. VMI goalkeeper Kirsten Hancock made a save just seconds later, however, and the Keydets countered in the fifth minute. Shortly after a corner kick by Affronti, Mason beat Bulldog keeper Muller for the first of her two tying goals, and the Keydets had knotted the score, 1-1.
Mason would test the Asheville keeper again in the 18th minute, but Muller was up to the task on that occasion. From there, the contest would see several shots over the remainder of the half, but the next try on cage did not come until the 44th minute, when Hancock stopped a Bulldog try to preserve the tie.
Asheville held a 9-3 edge in shots at the half, but it was the Keydets who had the first try in the second period, as Bridgette Pouliot forced a Muller save in the 51st minute. Hancock was then up to the task in the 54th minute, before being replaced one minute later by Mackenzie Harrmann.
The next shot on cage was a good one, as Asheville’s Shenny Lenhart scored off an Amanda Dailor pass, giving the home team the lead, 2-1 with 29 minutes to go. Boggs came right back with a shot on net that Muller stopped, but the Keydets kept the pressure on, also forcing saves in the 76th and 79th minutes, with those coming on tries by Meredith Baldasare. VMI finally broke through at 80:25, as Affronti found Mason for the goal and a 2-2 tie, but that would be the final Keydet shot on goal as Asheville would take the lead back for good just 23 seconds later.
The final stats showed Asheville with an 18-9 edge in total shots, as well as a 5-3 edge in corner kicks. Each team made five saves, with Hancock making three of VMI’s stops. Asheville’s Muller was credited with all five of the home team’s saves.
VMI women’s soccer will return to action Saturday, as the Keydets face the Presbyterian College Blue Hose in Clinton, S.C. Game time is set for 2 p.m.