For nearly the entire first half, an undermanned Barton College women’s soccer team managed to hold off the league’s No. 1 seed in the quarterfinals of the Conference Carolinas Tournament.
Playing with just three available substitutes against a deep Belmont Abbey College team that had outscored its opponents 44-3 in earning the regular-season title, the eighth-seeded Lady Bulldogs fought off 14 first-half shots by the Crusaders, a majority stopped by senior keeper Kelsey Rothwell, who posted eight saves in the period alone.
Just as the two sides appeared headed to intermission in a scoreless tie, however, league assist leader Laura Shelton tossed one more cross deep into the box, where BAC scoring leader Meghan Philp headed the ball into the net for her 13th goal of the year just eight seconds before halftime.
Despite the painful end to the period, Barton (6-8-4) came out of the break still battling, and maintained the one-goal deficit for roughly 20 minutes of the second half. However, Belmont Abbey (15-2-1), which played nine subs in the contest, eventually wore down the short-handed Lady Bulldogs.
In the 65th minute, Kooba Richard passed the ball along the top of the box to Cassidy Coutinho, who fired a shot that slipped through the legs of Rothwell in the muddy, rainy conditions at Alumni Field. Eleven minutes later, the Crusaders finished off Barton when Richard made a touch pass on the right wing to Kate Hennessy, who drilled a shot inside the far post to complete the 3-0 win.
Barton, which played the final two weeks of the season without leading scorer Emily Futral due to injury, could not produce any offense against a Belmont Abbey team ranked among the top 10 nationally in goals allowed. The Lady Bulldogs managed just one shot on the day, an attempt in the 55th minute by Christina Everett that was stopped by keeper Meghan Bowen.
The Crusaders, meanwhile, produced 26 total shots in the contest, including 16 on-frame. Rothwell recorded 13 saves over 82 minutes in goal, matching a career high.
The victory gave Belmont Abbey, winners of 12 straight matches, the right to host the remainder of the tournament, and advanced the Crusaders into a semifinal matchup on Thursday against No. 5 seed Converse College.
The loss marked an end to the careers of three Barton seniors – Futral, Rothwell and Ashley Batchelor. Together they helped the Lady Bulldogs earn 35 wins over their four seasons, the most since the class of 2008.
By Benny Benton