Falcons see season end on penalty kicks


For the first time since 2017, a team other than Bowling Green State University will win the Mid-American Conference Women’s soccer tournament championship.

The Falcons battled Ball State University to a 1-1 draw through regulation and a pair of overtime periods in MAC Tournament semifinal-round action on Thursday night, but the Cardinals advanced via penalty kicks. The match took place at UB Stadium.

BGSU freshman Brynn Gardner (Anthony Wayne) scored a second-half goal for the third-seeded Falcons (9-5-5), answering Sammi Corcoran’s first-half marker for BSU.

Junior Lacee Bethea had the lone assist on Gardner’s goal, making a dizzying array of moves on the right side of the pitch before chipping a gorgeous cross over the Ball State goalkeeper and onto the head of Gardner at the far post.

BGSU held decisive advantages in shot attempts, shots on goal and corner kicks during the 110 minutes of play.

The second-seeded Cardinals (7-4-8) became just the second team in history to advance past BGSU via penalty kicks in the MAC Tournament.

Ball State advances to Sunday’s MAC Tournament final to meet top-seeded Buffalo. The Bulls downed fifth-seeded Miami, 1-0, in Thursday’s first game.

Seven minutes into Thursday’s contest, BSU’s Abby Elgert fired the first shot of the match on a counterattack, after BGSU had controlled the possession. But, Lili Berg was in perfect position to make the save.

In the 13th minute, Lacee Bethea beat her would-be defender on the left side, crossing the ball into the box, but a defender knocked the ball away just before it reached Maya Dean.

Off of the ensuing corner kick, Mackenzie Reuber put the ball into the box. It was played in the direction of Kennedy White, and White got a shot off as she was falling backward, but the ball went over the target.

The Cardinals took the lead at the 18:09 mark. Corcoran won the ball approximately 40 yards from goal, took a touch, and fired a shot from distance that found the upper half of the goal.

BGSU had other opportunities. Dean played a ball toward the end line, and Jasmijn Dijsselhof raced forward and got to the ball before it rolled out of bounds.

Dijsselhof played a low cross to Katie Cox, who fired a shot from the center of the box. But, BSU ‘keeper Bethany Moser made a diving save to keep the Falcons off of the scoreboard.

With just over five minutes left in the half, Alaina Uncapher crossed the ball into the box from the right side.

Ellie Pool got a foot on the cross, sending the ball to Rylee Clark. Clark hit a hard shot from just outside the six-yard box, but a BSU defender was able to block the ball out for a corner kick.

The Falcons tied the score at the 56:04 mark. Bethea possessed the ball on the right side of the field, cutting back several times as she worked against a BSU defender.

Bethea took the ball toward the end line and chipped a perfect crossing ball toward the far post. The ball sailed over the outstretched arms of Moser and into the path of Gardner, who headed it into the net to knot the score at 1-1.

Gardner’s goal on Thursday was her sixth of the season. Gardner finished second on the Falcons in both goals and points (19), and BGSU with seven assists.

Bethea’s assist increased her season totals to four assists and six points. She now has career totals of 23 points on nine goals and five assists.

BGSU had 17-9 in total shot attempts, 9-3 in shots on goal and 9-4 in corner kicks. Berg made two saves for the Falcons. Moser had eight stops for the Cardinals.

Lili Berg finished the season with 74 saves and a goals-against average of just 0.87. Berg’s career GAA is also 0.87, as she has allowed 41 goals in nearly 4,300 minutes of work between the posts.

Berg has allowed just two goals in her five career MAC Tournament matches.

All-time, the Falcons have a 21-7-8 record in MAC Tournament play. BGSU’s winning percentage of .694 is the highest among all MAC schools, and the Falcons’ total of 21 MAC Tournament victories ranks second (Miami has 22).

The Falcons outscored the opponents, 22-4, over the last nine games. BGSU now has an overall record of 67-31-16 since the start of the 2017 season. And, since the beginning of the 2018 campaign, the Falcons are 54-24-15.

Since the start of 2017, BGSU is now 56-12-8 in all matches (regular-season and tournament) vs. MAC foes.

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