The Cougars pack their bags this week, but they're not ready to clean out their lockers just yet.
The Columbus State women's soccer team relied on goals from two of its top scorers Sunday to defeat Catawba 2-0 at the Walden Soccer Complex to earn a place in the Southeast Regional championship game in Florida next week.
The top-seeded Cougars tilted the field quickly by going ahead less than five minutes in on a goal from Gina Goforth, who has found the net a team-leading 18 times this season.
Kim Gaughan broke off from a defender along the right sideline near midfield and put up a long pass to Goforth, who had to beat a single Catawba defender before putting the ball in the bottom right corner of the net.
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“Getting that goal in the first five minutes really helped us,” Columbus State coach Jay Entlich said. “The last two games, it was hard for us to find our first goal, so I was very pleased we managed to score early this time.”
Columbus State's Stephanie Parrish followed the goal with three scoring chances in the next three minutes, each from the right side, but the Bulldogs (16-4-2) made blocks and forced shots wide.
The Cougars (20-3-1) got a cushion goal in the 29th minute, when Rachel Walthall, who is fourth on the team with seven goals, scored on a deflection from inside the box.
Columbus State's Melinda Bush set up the play. She took the ball down the left sideline and cut in past a Catawba defender along the goal line. Her shot was blocked, but Walthall found the loose ball 12 yards out for the goal.
The Cougars advanced to the regional championship game, against Carson-Newman at either West Florida in Pensacola, Fla., or Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., on Nov. 21. Carson-Newman defeated North Carolina-Pembroke 1-0 on Sunday in the other portion of the Southeast Regional in Jefferson City, Tenn.
A few adjustments will have to be made before the Cougars' next game, Entlich said, particularly on defense.
“I was a little disappointed with the way we gave up so many shots (Sunday),” Entlich said. “Our goalkeeper was terrific for us, but I don't think we needed to give up so many shots. The next game we play, I'd like to see fewer shots.”
The Cougars took 23 shots and forced Catawba goalkeeper Lindsay Webster to make 11 saves. While the Bulldogs took eight shots — exactly average against CSU's defense this season — they made Columbus State keeper Monica Sanchez to come up with two big stops and had a goal canceled on an offside call late in the second half.
Sanchez said her defense played well, despite a few missed blocks in front of her net.
“There were a lot of positives, I thought,” Sanchez said. “There was really good coverage, and, whenever someone makes a mistake, there's always someone else there to pick up the ball.”
The Cougars won the Southeast Regional title last season at home. Goforth, a junior, said she hoped the experience would be an advantage for Columbus State.
“It's going to help us a lot since a lot of us have been in these bigger games,” Goforth said. “We know what the experience is like, and we are making sure the younger kids on the team are doing everything OK so we'll be all right.”