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Women's soccer advances to SLIAC Championship for first time since 1996

Women's soccer advances to SLIAC Championship for first time since 1996

St. Louis, Mo. - The Spalding University, Fontbonne University SLIAC semifinal game didn't go quite as both team anticipated tonight. The game began with temps are 80 degrees and after four and a half hours which included two rain delays, double overtime and penalty kicks, the temperature was 60 degrees. 

Two minutes into their 14th SLIAC semifinal game, the Griffins earned a corner kick but junior Meredith Wendt's shot was negated by Spalding's Kelsey Kaiser.

Fontbonne possessed the ball for the first five minutes of play and most of the first half but the Golden Eagles struck first. Spalding scored on their first shot attempt in the 24th minute when a speedy Baylee Tabler dribbled down the near right side and crossed to Dee Dee Sliter near the goal line. Sliter netted her 21st goal of the year from the near the middle of the net.

The Griffins earned two more corners and a threatening free kick but couldn't tie the game before the half. In the 51st minute, junior Natalie Sipole passed the ball to the right for Jacey Pate to run down on the near right side of the field. Pate lofted a cross to senior Savannah Davis. Davis laid the ball into the right corner after the bounce for her fourth goal of the year. Sipole recorded her 11th assist of the season on the tying goal.

The Golden Eagles also threatened in the 51st minute but Sliter's shot was saved by Griffin goalkeeper Tayler Pulvirenti. Fontbonne earned two corner kicks but each of Wendt's shot went wide right.

Fans grew anxious as the storm began to roll in with 26 minutes left to play as a rain delay began with 19 minutes left in the contest at 7:25 p.m. This first delay of the night lasted until 8:50 p.m.

The two teams warmed up for the remaining regulation period with a drizzle and once the clock begin, thunder rolled once more and eventually everyone was soaking wet. Fontbonne's Jacey Pate had an opportunity to score the winning goal in the 59th minute but Kaiser saved the ball. Spalding's attempt with 6:30 to play went wide right, eventually sending the game into overtime. At the end of the first overtime, another lightning strike delayed the game, but this time for only 30 minutes. 

Sliter had a terrific opportunity just 41 seconds into overtime but Pulvirenti's outstretched hands averted the goal on the dive. Sliter than ran the ball down the far sideline, preventing it from going out of boundsand crossed it into the box in the 95th minute. Tabler's good look was saved by Pulvirenti who also saved Julie McGee's shot off the rebound and then averted another attempt by McGee. Spalding almost converted the corner kick opportunity after Pulvirenti's saves, but Sipole was standing on the goal line preventing the Golden Eagle header that was then wrapped up by Pulvirenti. Fontbonne's Ellen Weaver's shot with 4:50 was saved by Kaiser. 

Not many shot opportunities arose in the second overtime, as Spalding recorded the lone one. The limited offensive opportunities forced penalty kicks to decide who would advance to the SLIAC Tournament. 

The Griffins nailed all four of their penalty shots while Spalding only netted one of their first four attempts. 

Fontbonne advances to the SLIAC Tournament for the first time since 1996. They will play at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 4th at No. 1-seeded Webster University. 

The Griffins are now 12-6-2 on the season. They held an 18-10 shot advantage and 5-2 corner kick advantage over the Golden Eagles in the semifinal contest. Pulvirenti saved five in net for Fontbonne.