The Highlanders almost didn't get there as the eighth-seeded UNC Asheville Bulldogs gave RU all it wanted before falling in penalty kicks, 3-2 during the quarterfinals last Thursday. Second-year coach Michelle Demko's team battled ferociously against the Highlanders. The match was scoreless for 70 minutes before Radford struck first on a goal in the 70th minute.
Asheville wasn't fazed and tied the match four minutes later on a goal from freshman forward Kaitlyn Eckert. It was her sixth goal of the season.
The Bulldogs controlled play for much of the rest of regulation and overtime but just could not get the game-winner. RU would have one more PK than the Bulldogs and then cruise from that point to win the league championship. Freshman goalkeeper Heather Muller made 13 saves in the match against the Highlanders and was named to the All-Tournament team on Sunday.
Coach Demko was proud or her team's effort last week. Asheville finished the season with a 4-15-1 overall record but made a lot of strides from the previous season's 1-17-0 mark.
"This season is one marked with tremendous growth and confidence for this program. We set a team goal of getting back into the conference tournament this year and for that to happen was a step in the right direction," stated Demko. "We led the conference in shots taken and had multiple players in the top 10 of that category.
"Kaitlyn Eckert made the Big South All Freshmen team. Leilani Halkiotis made the Big South first team and Hannah Jeske made the All Academic team," added Demko. "Every player bought into our goal and made that possible.
"We played an outstanding game against Radford. Penalty kicks are a difficult way to win or lose the match, but I applaud our effort," Demko also said. "That environment is what college athletics is about. It was incredible to coach that game and witness our success. We proved we can play with any team in this conference, and I am excited for the future of this program. I would like to thank the seniors for their commitment and passion for this program. The leadership they have shown has been outstanding. They made sure every player was invested in changing this program and obtaining our goals. They leave UNC Asheville knowing the women's soccer team is moving in the right direction."