HPU Women’s Soccer Panthers Corner Camels, 3-1; Advance to Big South Final

• Seniors Meredith Dunker and Aley Kate McKinley scored their first goals of the season in the first half to give HPU an early 2-0 cushion.
• Senior Bri Jean-Charles headed in a corner in the second half to put the game away for HPU, who went on to beat Campbell, 3-1.
• High Point advances to its eighth Big South Championship match in school history on Sunday at 2 p.m. against either No. 2 Liberty or No. 3 Longwood.

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The top-seeded High Point University women’s soccer team advanced to its third Big South Championship game in the last four seasons with a 3-1 victory over No. 4 seed Campbell on Friday afternoon at Bryan Park. HPU will play in its eighth conference championship match on Sunday.

“It’s exciting to get back to the conference championship game on Sunday,” head coach Marty Beall said. “The girls worked so hard today and I’m so proud of them. I thought we were fantastic in the first half and created some very dangerous chances. Set pieces are a big thing in the college game and I thought we executed them very well.”

After a back-and forth opening 20 minutes, High Point (12-7-1) seized control and played a majority of the first half in Campbell’s (10-7-2) end of the field. HPU fired seven shots in the final 25 minutes of the opening stanza, utilizing set pieces to ignite opportunity.

The Panthers grabbed the lead in the 32nd minute on one of those set pieces, a corner kick from senior Taylor Romano. The lofted ball from the left corner was headed towards the right side of the box where it was tracked down by freshman Jess De Jesus. After settling the ball down, De Jesus sent a cross back to the middle and found senior Meredith Dunker, who was able to head it low left side past the Campbell keeper for her first goal of the year.

HPU kept the pressure on, nearly netting a goal in the 42nd minute when senior Aley Kate McKinley’s shot deflected off the right post.

McKinley, though, would not be denied in the 44th minute. Again the tally was set up by a Romano corner kick from the left side. The initial opportunity came for sophomore Maggie Gruber, who rang the ball off the crossbar. The deflection came back to Romano, who served another ball into the box where it was deflected to McKinley. The senior stepped up and struck a laser left side to give HPU a 2-0 advantage. It was McKinley’s first goal of the season and first since her freshman campaign.

The Purple & White added to its lead in the 53rd minute on yet another corner kick. This time, sophomore Allie Reagan curled a perfect ball to the middle of the box that senior Bri-Jean Charles skied to head home for a 3-0 lead. It was Jean-Charles’ third goal of the season.

Campbell was able to get a goal back in the 64th minute by virtue of a corner kick of its own. After the initial chance was denied, a loose ball was corralled by Anna Brantley, who beat senior Alex Hank high left side to cut the deficit to 3-1.

The Camels nearly netted another goal a minute later, but Hank pounced on a free ball in the box to keep the margin at two. High Point’s defense stiffened up after the burst, yielding just two shot attempts the rest of the match en route to a convincing 3-1 triumph.

HPU ended the match with a 13-9 edge in shots, including an overwhelming 10-2 margin in the first half. Hank made one save in net to earn her sixth straight win. Her scoreless streak was snapped at 369:49 after three straight clean sheets.

The victory was the Panthers’ sixth straight and secured at least 12 wins for the fourth straight season. HPU will play in its eighth Big South championship game, the second-most in Big South history, and will be vying for its sixth title, which would match the most in conference annals.

The match will be contested on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Bryan Park in Greensboro, N.C. The Panthers await either No. 2 seed Liberty or No. 3 seed Longwood, who contested their semifinal Friday evening. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.