UTSA gets past Southeastern in overtime of SLC finale

UTSA’s Maria Jose Rojas scored the game-winning goal in the fourth minute of overtime to send the Roadrunners past Southeastern Louisiana, 1-0, in the championship match of the Southland Conference Women’s Soccer Tournament Sunday afternoon at the Bobcat Soccer Complex on the campus of Texas State University.

The Southland Conference regular season champion Lady Lions (15-3-3) had their school-record eight-match winning streak snapped and one of the most successful seasons in school history ended. UTSA (13-7-2) won its first Southland Conference Tournament title and will make its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Southeastern was represented on the Southland All-Tournament team by senior Natalie Santana, sophomore Maiya Cooper and junior Lacey Bockhaus. Santana scored two goals – including the game-winner in overtime – in Southeastern’s 3-2 win over Texas State in Friday’s semifinals. Cooper finished her second season with the Lady Lions with 11 goals, while Southland Conference Player of the Year Bockhaus had a league-best 0.64 goals against average in 2010, as well as a Southland Conference career record 30 shutouts.

Southeastern was forced to play a player down for the final 18 minutes of regulation after Cooper drew a red card. Cooper retaliated after Kimber Chudej took her down, drawing a yellow card of her own.

Despite the loss, Southeastern head coach Blake Hornbuckle was pleased with the efforts of his team.

“We were forced into a tough position when we were forced to play a player down after the ejection,” Hornbuckle commented. “We kept battling and showed a tremendous amount of character, but today just wasn’t our day.

“Individually, Kerry McWhirter provided us with a spark, while Nicole Brannigan and Lacey were key performers for us defensively,” Hornbuckle commented. “Lauren Stillians and her workrate in the midfield was also impressive and Natalie did an excellent job creating opportunities.”

Southeastern suffered a key injury in the early minutes of the first period. UTSA’s Allison Dillon drew a yellow card, when she knocked Southeastern All-Southland Conference freshman defender Shanyce Shaw into Bockhaus, knocking Shaw out for the remainder of the match.

“We got off to a great start early in the match, but losing Shanyce really hurt us,” Hornbuckle said. “Having to replace one of our key defensive starters definitely changed the dynamic of the match.”

On the first shot of overtime, Taylor Padia played a ball ahead to Rojas, who finished from six yards out to give UTSA the victory.

Despite the unfortunate ending, Southeastern will be able to look back at 2010 as one of the most successful seasons in school history. The Lady Lions tied the school record with 15 wins and won their fifth Southland Conference regular season crown. Southeastern will return six All-Southland performers in Cooper, Bockhaus, Stillians, Shaw, Kyle MacIntosh and Karly Dagys.

Southeastern will have to replace one of the program’s most decorated senior classes in Santana, Brannigan and Brittany Prieto. The group helped Southeastern to a Southland Conference Tournament title, an NCAA Tournament appearance, a Southland Conference regular season title and 49 wins, while combining for eight All-Southland Conference nods. Santana finished her career with a Southland Conference record 26 assists, while Brannigan joined former Lady Lion Nicole Helmig as the only players in school history to play in 80 matches.

“We’re extremely proud of our senior class’ performance on and off the field this season,” Hornbuckle commented. “All three have been important contributors to our program and will be greatly missed.”