Women’s soccer: VMI advances in Southern Conference tournament in shootout

vmi_logoDemetra Protogyrou scored to start round seven of a penalty kick shootout, and Darien Dunham capped a spectacular performance with a save on Peyton McCollum as the VMI Keydets prevailed in a shootout, 3-2, over the Chattanooga Mocs in the first round of the 2015 Southern Conference Women’s Soccer Championship Wednesday night in Chattanooga, Tenn. The match officially is recorded as a 0-0 tie with VMI advancing, 3-2, and reaching the second round of a conference tournament for the first time since 2009.

Neither team could score in regulation, but McKenzie Gregg beat Dunham in the opening round of the shootout and UTC (4-12-3, 2-6-1) went up 2-0 after Skylar Brewer scored in round three. Amy Horney and Dunham herself got the Keydets (6-12-2, 2-7) on the board, however, and Dunham stopped Samantha Hogan with the match on the line in round five.

That sent the contest to extra attempts, and after Sydnie Bligh was stopped in round six, the Mocs rushed the field and dogpiled about 30 yards from the goal. After the confusion was resolved, Dunham saved a UTC attempt to bring up Protogyrou, who went low right on Lauren Thomas to give the Keydets the lead, 3-2. A Dunham save on McCollum, her fourth straight save in the shootout, set off the VMI celebration.

With the success in the shootout, the Keydets have advanced in two of their three shootouts in program history. UTC finished the match with a 16-10 edge in shots and a 9-4 advantage in corners. Protogyrou, meanwhile, had the winning attempt after playing just 202 minutes on the season and logging four shots in 16 games.

The early stages of the match foretold the eventual drama, as both keepers made saves on penalty kick attempts. Bligh was stopped in the 16th minute, and Dunham turned aside McCollum in the 25th to keep the match scoreless.

It would remain 0-0 at the break, and the teams traded opportunities early in the second half. Dunham stopped McCollum and Gregg, however, and Bligh was stopped on a pair of attempts in the 58th minute. The game then settled into a great deal of midfield play, until the final moments of the second half. Dunham tipped a Masey Fox try over the bar with 30 seconds to go in regulation to send the contest to extra time.

After neither team had a shot on goal in the first OT, Lauren Thomas saved an Olivia Cotton try in the 108th minute. Cotton had fought through three defenders to tip the ball toward the goal, but Thomas was up to the task. That was the final shot of overtime and set up the penalty kick dramatics.

Dunham was credited with nine saves, and will have a chance to set the new school record for saves in VMI’s game Saturday evening at Samford. Thomas made four saves for UTC.

VMI women’s soccer now advances to the quarterfinals of the 2015 SoCon Women’s Soccer Championship and will face top-seeded Samford. Kickoff in Birmingham, Ala. is set for 8 p.m. Eastern time.

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