OREM, Utah – Utah Valley University blew open a 2-2 score with three goals in the last nine minutes to grab a 5-2 win over South Carolina State in the semifinals of the Great West Conference Tournament on Sunday night at Clyde Field.
Four Wolverines scored in the match, and senior Jaime Lyons finished with four assists – a program record for a single game.
"South Carolina State is a great team and we knew that they had more in them once we built an early lead," UVU head coach Brent Anderson said. "They got back into the game and put us under pressure, but our girls got organized again and created some good scoring chances and finished them."
A 2-0 UVU (8-11-1) halftime lead was erased by a pair of SCSU (8-12-0) goals less than ten minutes apart. After a goal from the Bulldogs' Breia Pierce, freshman Blanca Barrio tied the match in the 80th minute with a bending free kick from 30 yards.
While the momentum now seemed to favor SCSU, the Wolverine attack exploded over the final 10 minutes. Midfielder Haley Curtis played the hero only two minutes after the SCSU equalizer, flying into the attacking third off a feed from Lyons. One-on-one with the keeper, Curtis maneuvered the ball around the Bulldogs' Danielle Murphy and slammed the go-ahead goal into the open net.
The Wolverines put the match away in the 88th minute. Looking for another tally, Curtis fired a shot from the left side that rattled the crossbar. The rebound came out to Lyons who found Shalayne Janis lurking just inside the 18. Janis' right-footed attempt glanced off both the crossbar and the left post before nestling into the net.
It was then Kim Stratford's turn 66 seconds later, as the sophomore took a pass from Lyons and laced a drive from 12 yards out to settle the tightly contested match with a deceiving 5-2 score line. The final goal, coming with just 12 seconds showing on the clock, gave Lyons her school-record fourth assist on the night.
"This may have been the game of Jaime's career," added Anderson. "She really cranked things up tonight and played the ball into the right places."
Janis, who also tallied in the first half, finished the match with two goals. Sophomore midfielder Lexi Robison opened the scoring in the fourth minute, blasting a hard shot from 25 yards into the upper left corner.
Goalkeeper Lauren Sack finished with three saves but found herself on the wrong end of SCSU's first goal. The Bulldogs' Pierce lifted a high volley that fell easily into the hands of a backpedaling Sack. However, her backward momentum carried her and the ball over the goal line, putting SCSU on the scoreboard.
With the win, UVU advances to Monday's championship against the Bison of Howard University. That match will kick off at 7 p.m. at Clyde Field. Howard, the No. 6 seed, beat No. 3 NJIT and No. 2 Houston Baptist en route to the final.
"We know Howard is a dangerous team," Anderson said. "Some people have underestimated them but we will not. They played a good game against us at their place and we know that they will come to play."
Monday's championship match will be televised locally on UVU-TV. It will also be re-aired on Fox College Sports Pacific within the next few days.
A win Monday night would make the Wolverines back-to-back GWC tournament champions, as UVU won last year's title with a 2-1 win over HBU in Newark, N.J.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company