No. 4/6 Memphis Advances to Fifth-Straight C-USA Tournament Championship Game
Nov. 4, 2011
Lizzy Simonin and Rasheeda Ansari each tallied goals for the Lady Tigers as they improve to 20-0-1 on the season. East Carolina falls to 11-8-1 on the year.
"Credit to East Carolina; they played really well," Memphis head coach Brooks Monaghan said. "I think the game was closer than the score (indicated). They are a very good team, and they played us hard."
Hildebrandt provided the early spark as she scored her first goal of the season to give Memphis an early 1-0 lead in the 8th minute. Melissa Smith played a ball on the right side, fed it to Hildebrandt at the top of the 18-yard box and Hildebrandt finished with a strike to the right post. It was Smith's team-leading ninth assist of the season. Hildebrandt's goal marked the earliest score of the season for Memphis. A Memphis foul five yards outside the box in the 27th minute set up the Pirates with an equalizer opportunity. Chrissy Gratz directed the free kick on frame, but Elise Kuhar-Pitters made the save. The Lady Tigers finished the first half with a 6-4 edge in shots attempted.
Leah Bagonis had a one-versus-one scoring chance in the 66th minute, but Kuhar-Pitters dove to her right to make the save on the shot toward the left post. Just a moment later, Kimmy Cummings had a free kick 25 yards away in the center of the pitch, but Kuhar-Pitters came up with a big save once again.
"We played really hard, but we ran up against the best C-USA team I've seen, and I've been here for a while," East Carolina head coach Rob Donnenwirth said. "I think this Memphis team--what Brooks (Monaghan) has going on--is a pretty special group. I felt there were moments in the game where we had them under some pressure, but they make you work, and they made us work for everything."
Memphis broke through with its second goal on a free kick in the 70th minute. Lizzy Simonin stood over the ball on the left side about 25 yards away and fired a rocket to the back 90 for her sixth goal of the season. It was Simonin's fourth goal via penalty or free kick on the year.
Rasheeda Ansari added a goal in the 89th minute to set the final margin at 3-0. Kaitlyn Atkins found some space along the left flank, served the ball across the box. The ECU keeper came out to snare the ball, but couldn't reach it in time and Ansari put it away for the goal. It was Ansari's sixth goal of the season and Atkins fifth assist.
Kuhar-Pitters finished with five saves on the night and completed her 37th-career shutout, claiming sole possession of third-place all-time in the NCAA Division I Women's Soccer record book. It was Kuhar-Pitters 14th shutout of the season, a single-season school record.
Memphis becomes the fifth host institution to advance to the final and first since Rice advanced and won the tournament in Houston, Texas in 2005. The Lady Tiger posted their 10th shutout in the last 14 tournament matches and outscored the opposition 34-4.
The Lady Tigers will host UTEP in the 2011 C-USA Championship Final on Sunday at 1 p.m. The match will air on CBS Sports Network.
"That was one of our goals (this year)," Monaghan said. "Obviously, we want to win every game, and that is what we did. We are looking forward to the game on Sunday. It is going to be against a tough team with some very talented players."