Ring the Bell! Braves soccer advances to CC championship

Nov. 5—BROWNS SUMMIT — Freshman Mercy Bell netted a pair of goals, including a go-ahead score in the 96th minute, to lead the third-seeded UNC Pembroke soccer team past second-seeded Mount Olive, 4-2, in the semifinal round of the Conference Carolinas Tournament on Friday afternoon.

The Braves (15-2-2) stretched their unbeaten streak out to seven matches with the result, while also advancing to the Conference Carolinas Tournament championship game for the second-straight year as well. The setback snapped a six-match win streak for the Trojans (13-5-0) who fell to 4-11-1 all-time against the Black & Gold, including an 0-2-0 clip in the series at neutral sites.

Mount Olive's Delia Allwood's initial ninth-minute shot from just inside the penalty area warranted a diving save from Chiara Coppin, but Coppin's deflection landed at the feet of Addison Dangler on the other side of the field and the freshman connected on a rebound shot just inside the near post.

The Braves' Ashleigh Harris corralled an errant pass at the midfield stripe in the 24th minute, turned and hit a through pass to Mercy Bell who dribbled through a Trojans defender before drilling a shot past Nicole Solicito who had come off of her line in an effort to defend the scoring opportunity.

The Braves stormed ahead just more than five minutes later after Anna Grossheim hauled in a perfectly-placed pass on a breakaway opportunity, dribbled 10 yards and got off a rifle shot that found its way inside the far post.

In the 36th minute, Braves goalkeeper Chiara Coppin punched a corner kick in the center of the penalty area out of danger, but the loose ball took one bounce before Delia Allwood nailed a one-timer past Coppin to even the match up.

In the first overtime, Ilaya Bigford and Kennedy Rucker strung together a pair of passes that eventually found Mercy Bell on the near sideline. The freshman took control of the pass, wrestled through a Mount Olive defender and fired a shot inside the far post for a 3-2 lead in the 96th minute.

Five minutes later, just one minute into the second overtime period, Ashleigh Harris hauled in a quick pass from Anna Grossheim, then fired another pass across the goal mouth to a waiting Naomi Fountain who redirected with a one-timer into the back of the net.

Second-team all-conference pick Mercy Bell notched the eighth and ninth goals of her collegiate career, while also logging eight shots (6 on goal). It was the first points for Bell since returning from an injury that kept her from action for seven matches.

First-team all-conference honoree Ashleigh Harris matched a career high with two assists, while also turning in four shots. It was the 11th time this season that Harris has tallied at least one point (goal or assist).

All-conference selections Anna Grossheim and Naomi Fountain both tallied a goal and an assist in the contest, while first team all-conference selection Kennedy Rucker and Ilaya Bigford both recorded assists of their own.

UNCP stretched its unbeaten streak out to six matches with Saturday's result, and has not tasted defeat since a 1-0 setback at Mount Olive on October 5. The contest marked the third time over that stretch that a result was attained in overtime.

The Black & Gold improved to 10-2-0 away from home this season with the win over Mount Olive, and now boast a three-match win streak in games not contested at Lumbee River EMC Stadium.

The Braves advanced to Sunday's Conference Carolinas Tournament championship match, and will make their fourth appearance in a conference tournament championship match. UNCP is 2-1-0 in its three previous appearances in the title bout.

The third-seeded Braves will take on top-seeded North Greenville (13-3-1) in Sunday's Conference Carolinas Tournament championship match. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Bryan Park in Browns Summit.