Mocs Soccer Beats Wofford on Penalty Kicks to Advance in SoCon Tournament
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — One-hundred and 10 minutes wasn’t enough. The Mocs and Terriers battled to a 1-1 draw through two overtimes Tuesday night in the first round of the Southern Conference Tournament at the UTC Sports Complex. It would all come down to penalty kicks to decide who would advance.
“We do penalties at training throughout the week,” Mocs head coach Gavin McKinney said. “We jot down who’s been successful, who’s missed a couple. We pick the order, ask them if they’re confident. If they’re not, we go with somebody else. Those five stepped up there, they were all confident, we picked the order and, yeah, cool as you’d like.”
The Mocs advanced 5-3 on PKs. Mackenzie Smith stepped up and buried the first shot, instilling even more confidence in her team.
Wofford’s Caileen Almeida matched Smith’s shot.
Faith Gober was next for Chattanooga. She placed hers into the lower right to put UTC up 2-1 in the shootout. The Terriers next shot off the foot of Leanna Guion went wide to the left, giving Chattanooga hope.
Julia Perrusquia dropped her shot into the lower left, Ao Yamada touched hers into the lower right and Grace Klippenstein clinched it on a hard hit ball into the upper right corner of the net and the celebrating began.
“It’s not often you see five penalty takers step up like that,” McKinney said. “But they were all really, really good penalties.”
The first half saw Chattanooga with a 10-4 shots advantage, but neither team could find the net. The Mocs were close in the 32nd minute on a shot from Samantha Shaw that hit off the crossbar.
Wofford broke the seal with a score from Savannah Vathy off a corner kick in the 48th minute for her fourth goal of the season.
The Mocs continued to push, outshooting the Terriers 8-5 in the second half. Klippenstein, just outside the six-yard box, fired off a shot that hit hard off the upright in the 58th minute.
Time was running short for Chattanooga who had not advanced in the Southern Conference Tournament since beating ETSU 3-1 in the 2003 SoCon Championships.
McKinney had defender Maggie Shaw playing forward for much of the game and she was in just the right spot in the 89th minute. AK Anderson sent a shot in from just outside the top corner of the box. The ball hit the hands of the Terrier keeper but she was unable to reel it in and Shaw came flying in at the far post to send it home for the equalizer.
“Really happy for Maggie and for the girls,” McKinney said after the celebration. “I thought we fought hard for that 90 minutes and we were a bit unlucky on a few occasions. Sam hit the cross bar in the first half. Grace hit the post in the second half, so it just looked like one of those nights where maybe we wouldn’t find it, but we kept pushing, we kept fighting.
“Down 1-0, Maggie is dynamic when she drives forward, so instead of changing our shape, we just kind of took the shackles off of her and allowed her to go and join the attack a bit more and help us create some chances. Glad we did.”
Chattanooga controlled much of the overtime periods but couldn’t get the ball past the stingy Terrier defense despite a 4-0 shots advantage in the extra 20 minutes.
This was the third time the Mocs have made it to a shootout, all since the arrival of McKinney in 2015, and the first time his team has earned the advancement. UTC fell on PKs 3-2 to VMI in his first season and again, 4-2 to UNCG in 2019.
Chattanooga heads to Birmingham, Ala., Friday to take on the top-seeded Samford Bulldogs. The game will kick off at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time.