HPU WSOC Panthers Stifle Eagles, 2-0; Advance to Big South Semis

• High Point advanced to its sixth-straight Big South semifinal with a 2-0 victory over No. 8 seed Winthrop on Friday night.
• Seniors Paige Rombach and Michele Micciche provided the goals for High Point in the waning stages of each half.
• The Panther defense held Winthrop to only two shots, the lowest total for an HPU opponent since Oct. 19, 2016.

HIGH POINT, N.C. – Behind a dominant defensive effort and two timely goals, the High Point University women’s soccer team advanced to the Big South semifinals for the sixth straight season, defeating No. 8 seed Winthrop, 2-0, on Friday night at Vert Stadium.

“I’m really proud of our girls for putting in a fantastic effort from start to finish,” head coach Marty Beall said. “Our team defending can’t get much better than that. Winthrop puts you under a lot of pressure and has some players that can cause problems, and our back three were absolutely fantastic against their attack. The first half was a pretty solid performance. It was great to get the goal (heading into halftime) that gave us some momentum. We talked about some tactical things we needed to apply after halftime and the girls did it. It’s a great result and we’re excited to move forward to the semifinals.”

The top-seeded Panthers (11-7-1) were dominant throughout the 90 minutes, holding a 12-2 edge in shots for the match. Winthrop (5-10-2) was not credited with a shot attempt until the 82nd minute and did not put a shot on net until the final minute of play.

Senior Becca Rolfe had the best chance early in the match, finding a seam through the middle of the Winthrop defense on a counterattack in the eighth minute. Rolfe, though, sent the shot wide to keep the match scoreless. HPU’s first shot on target came in the 28th minute by way of senior Lindsay Elsen, who put a good strike on a shot from outside the box that was saved by Winthrop keeper Ashlyn Harris.

The game remained scoreless until the 44th minute when senior Meredith Dunker won a 1 v. 1 battle to the left of the box before being taken down inside the penalty area for a penalty kick. Senior Paige Rombach took the chance for HPU and slid it right side past Harris to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. It was the fourth goal of the season for High Point via the PK and fourth overall on the year for Rombach, establishing a new career high.

The second half featured more even and back-and-forth play, although High Point’s team defending was able to nullify most of Winthrop’s opportunities. The Eagles’ Natalie Royaards was able to get into the box on one occasion, but senior goalkeeper Alex Hank raced to the ball before Royaards was able to get a shot away. The two shots were by far the fewest for an HPU opponent this season, and the fewest since Presbyterian offered one shot on Oct. 19, 2016.

Hank made one stop, a routine save against Royaards in the game’s 90th minute, to secure her eighth individual shutout of the year. Dating back to the last Winthrop game on Oct. 14, the senior is riding a scoreless streak of 296:25 that includes three straight clean sheets.

High Point put the match away in the 86th minute, again spurred by a 1 v. 1 effort. Rolfe won an individual battle along the right sideline in the attacking third and lofted a ball to the top of the box where Elsen was able to get a head on the ball and redirect it towards the goal. The bouncing ball found its way to senior Michele Micciche, who headed it past Harris for a 2-0 lead. The tally was Micciche’s team-leading fifth of the campaign.

With the victory, HPU advances to the semifinals of the Big South Championship, to be held next Friday, Nov. 3 at Bryan Park in Greensboro, N.C. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. The Panthers will face either No. 4 seed Campbell or No. 5 seed Radford, who will contest their quarterfinal on Saturday.