BECKLEY, W.Va. — Facing top-seeded West Virginia University Tech in a setting that looked perfect for the filming of “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” it was the University of Rio Grande who was doing all of the howling at night’s end.
The fourth-seeded RedStorm capitalized on a costly mistake by the Golden Bears to grab a first half lead and then added a pair of second half goals to secure a 3-0 victory, Wednesday night, in the semifinal round of the River States Conference Women’s Soccer Tournament at a fog-shrouded YMCA/Paul Cline Soccer Complex.
Rio Grande improved to 10-8-1 with the win and advanced to Saturday’s tournament title game against No. 2 seed Asbury, which eliminated sixth-seeded Ohio Christian University, 4-0, in Wednesday’s other semifinal contest.
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Asbury Soccer/Lacrosse Complex in Wilmore, Ky., with the winner earning a berth in the NAIA National Championship Tournament.
WVU Tech, which played the RedStorm to a 1-1 tie in their regular season meeting on Oct. 14 in Rio Grande, finished its season at 12-6-1 with the loss.
“We felt like if we could just make the conference tournament that we’d have a fighting chance,” said Rio Grande head coach Tony Daniels. “I think tonight solidified what we’re about. To post a 3-0 result against a very good West Virginia Tech shows that we’re here.”
In addition to playing against each other, both teams were forced to deal with an additional opponent – the elements.
Heavy fog settled over the field shortly before kickoff and worsened as the night went on, leaving spectators – and, at times, the players and coaches – to their imagination as to exactly what was taking place on the pitch.
Rio Grande got what proved to be the only goal it would need with 6:35 remaining in the first half when a free kick from the left wing – just outside the 18-yard box – by senior Jenna Jones (Lancaster, OH) hit off the shin of a Tech defender and ricocheted past Golden Bears’ net-minder Martha Reyna and into the back of the net for an own goal and a 1-0 lead.
“Most definitely,” Daniels said, when asked if, in the foggy conditions, the team which scored first had a bigger advantage than they might have had otherwise. “But both teams had to play in it. Our plan, though, was to attack and to try and land the first punch. We did that and we didn’t let up.”
The RedStorm extended its lead to 2-0 on an unassisted goal by junior Kelsey Lee (West Chester, OH) – the reigning RSC Offensive Player of the Week – just over 9-1/2 minutes into the second half.
Freshman Payten Davis (Chillicothe, OH) set the final score with an unassisted marker of her own with 5:42 left to play.
With their respective goals, Lee and Davis remained tied for the team lead in goals scored with seven each.
Rio Grande finished with an 8-7 advantage in shots, including a 7-2 edge in the second half and a 7-3 cushion in shots on goal.
The RedStorm also had four corner kick opportunities to just one for Tech.
Junior Andrea Vera (Quito, Ecuador) recorded three saves while posting her fifth clean sheet of the season.
Reyna had four saves in a losing cause for the Golden Bears.
“There were a bunch of teams in our league who probably didn’t give us a chance of winning tonight,” said Daniels. “Some probably thought that we’re just a blip on the radar, but with the things I’ve been through with the men’s program and what (Rio men’s soccer head coach) Scott Morrissey has instilled in me, I want to be here and I want to keep on pushing – not only my team, but the other teams in this conference to go on to the next level.”
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.