Lions Roar Back





Lions Roar Back in Final Minutes; Mocs Fall 3-2 in First Round of NCAA South Region Tournament

Box Score

PENSACOLA – North Alabama forward Chloe Roberts was not only the Gulf South Conference Freshman-of-the-Year, but the league’s Player-of-the-Year as well. Friday afternoon, she showed why she was so deserving of both honors. Scoring two goals, including the game-winner with less than five minutes to play, and assisting one other, Roberts led UNA to a 3-2 win over Florida Southern in the first round of the NCAA South Region Tournament.

UNA came into the game ranked second in Division II in goals per game (4.18), but the Moccasins looked in total control through the first 20 minutes, taking the first six shots of the game, including three by Hanna Jansson. They also had a near-goal in the 10th minute when UNA defender Katie Crosby broke up a run by Kerri-Ann Brown inside the box before Brown could take a shot. So it was with some surprise that the Lions scored first, taking a 1-0 lead on a goal by Roberts in the 24th minute. With the play starting in the back, the Lions were able to get the ball to her at the top center of the box, where she connected on a low line drive for her 31st goal of the season.

As far as the first half was concerned, that goal was just a blip on the screen. The Mocs continued to have the better of it all the way to halftime, and responded with two goals of their own. Princess Haley got the first one on a penalty kick in the 31st minute, after Brown was brought down inside the box. Ironically, it came after a throw-in from Haley put the Mocs in that position to begin with. It was Haley’s team-leading 10th goal of the season.

Florida Southern scored its second goal in the 38th minute, again on a set play. With Ashlie Haas and Emily Griffith working the ball from the back third, and on through the midfield, the Mocs earned a corner kick that was taken by Alex Hoover. With the ball curling the ball in from the right corner, Haas stepped in front of a UNA defender and had just enough time to flick the ball around her, and over the hands of goalkeeper Alex McLay for the goal.

The 2-1 lead held up until the 64th minute when the Lions again started a scoring play in the back by sending a ball down the middle for Roberts. This time, Roberts got the ball to Jamie Takala, who took it into the box and just got the shot off as Martina Tangen Billing came out to challenge her.

The pressure continued after Takala tied the game, as Tangen Billing saved a shot by Roberts immediately after that, and a header by Hollie Loud on a corner kick in the 78th minute was close to scoring too. Tangen Billing came up with another save in the 83rd minute, and a shot by Jo Chubb in the 85th was a little wide of the mark.

North Alabama then broke through for the final time with 4:43 remaining, with Roberts scoring her second goal of the match. It came on a great individual effort, with Roberts dribbling through the Moccasin defense from the side of the box, before maneuvering into position for a shot just inside the near post.

That goal not only gave North Alabama the lead, it also moved Roberts to the top of the Division II leader board, giving her one more than West Florida’s Shakira Duncan (32-31). Combined with her assist on the Lions’ second goal, Roberts has a total of 79 points, also the most in Division II.

After falling behind 3-2, the Moccasins did not have another shot, but they did have one last scoring chance at the end of the game. Following a free kick deep in their own territory, the Mocs got the ball to Haley on the left wing with around 10 seconds to play. However, UNA defender Stephanie Bradshaw twice kept her from dribbling in for a shot, eventually poking the ball away as time expired.

“North Alabama is obviously a very good team,” said Florida Southern head coach Ben Strawbridge. “They worked hard for this win and came back when a lot of things weren’t going their way early in the game.”

The two teams finished with identical shot totals (10 apiece), but after Florida Southern out-shot North Alabama 8-2 in the first half, the numbers were completely reversed in the second. Tangen Billing and McLay each made two saves for their respective teams.

With the win, North Alabama (19-3-1) advances to the second round of the South Region Tournament where it will face top-ranked West Florida (19-0) on Sunday at 1:00. It will be a matchup of the nation’s two highest scoring teams.

Florida Southern finishes the season with a 12-8-1 record, making its second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, while playing 10 games against other teams that also qualified for postseason play. The Moccasins also did that with only two seniors on the roster.

“As every team does, we had to fight through adversity to reach this point, and I’m extremely proud of these players,” said Strawbridge. “It’s never easy, but this team put itself in position to reach every goal we set, and that takes a lot of hard work from the start of the season all the way through to the end. We’ve got a lot to look forward to next year.”