Camels advance to Big South championship match after 3-2 semi-final win over Winthrop

Pirjo Leppikangas
Pirjo Leppikangas

Charleston, S.C. – Campbell scored three consecutive goals during the middle third of Friday night's semi-final match against Winthrop and held on for a 3-2 victory, propelling the Camels into Sunday's Big South Conference tournament final.

Ashley Clark (Cary, N.C.) notched her sixth game-winning goal of the season and eleventh overall to help Campbell tie the program's single season wins record in the fifteenth win of the year. CU improves to 15-4-2 overall, while Winthrop falls to 12-7-1.

Winthrop controlled play early in the match, and the Eagles struck first in the seventh minute as Big South attacking player of the year Courtney Durbin got behind the defense to play a through ball from Grace Radler and sent a shot past a diving Ryann Torrero (Burbank, Calif.).

WU had a chance to add to its lead a short time later, as Radler fired a shot from 25 yards out that hit the left post. Campbell began to get more offensive chances after Radler's near miss. Clark had back-to-back shot attempts in the 20th minute. The first was saved by Eagle goalkeeper Sarah Schippers and the second went just wide of the net. The freshman out of Panther Creek High School finished with six of Campbell's 20 shots, putting five of them on goal.

While Campbell had generated a few offensive opportunities during the middle of the first half playing against a gusty wind, momentum changed in the 32nd minute, when Winthrop was charged with a foul in their defensive box. Camel senior Annabelle Gibney (Melbourne, Australia) stepped up to take the penalty kick, and perfectly placed a shot in the upper right hand corner to level the match at 1-1.

With CU continuing to pressure Winthrop offensively, Gibney stepped up to take a corner kick at the 40:19 mark. Her service into the box found a waiting Pirjo Leppikangas (Helsinki, Finland), who headed home the goal to give the Camels a 2-1 advantage going into halftime. Campbell held a narrow 10-8 first half advantage in shots during the opening period.

Both teams battled for possession for much of the first 15 minutes of the second half before trading goals just over a minute apart from one another. Campbell initially pushed its lead to 3-1 when Ashley Clark notched her eleventh goal of the season in the 60th minute. Clark took quick touches from Leppikangas and Kirsty Meyer (Fredericksburg, Va.) before firing a blast from just outside the box.

The two goal cushion was short-lived, as WU answered almost immediately, scoring at 62:03 on a goal from Allie Vandewater. The Campbell defensive line was solid for the rest of the half, while Campbell was able to maintain the majority of ball possession during the final ten minutes.

"To beat a great team like Winthrop twice this season is an amazing feeling. They were conference champions, and I think we came out here tonight and earned a victory by the way we played," head coach Todd Clark said after the match.

"Radford is just as good a team and we look forward to a great match in the championship game. We promised our alumni that if they worked hard we would get the program back to this level of play, and we are excited for the progress we have made."

Campbell advances to Sunday's Big South championship match and will face the Radford Highlanders. First kick is scheduled for 2 p.m. as the Camels face off against a RU team that it beat 2-1 in last Saturday's regular season finale in Buies Creek.