BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - Marcela Salum showed why she is the 2009 Appalachian Athletic Conference Player of the Year as she netted two goals to lift top-seeded Union College to a 2-1 victory over No. 3 seed Bryan (Tenn.) College and to the AAC Tournament championship Saturday.
"The conference player of the year scored twice for us and took us to the national tournament," said Union coach Jason Lanham. "What more can you say?"
The AAC Tournament championship is the first in program history for Union as it improved to 16-2-1 overall.
The Lady Bulldogs also now advance to the NAIA National Championship Tournament, marking their first return to the tournament since 2003. This is the third time Union has qualified for the national tournament. In 2002, the Lady Bulldogs advanced to the NAIA Final Four.
"I'm just beside myself," Lanham said. "These girls set goals of winning the regular-season and tournament championships and make it to the national tournament, and they did it. They've worked so hard and given up so many things this year to achieve this. They so deserve this."
Bryan ends the season with an 8-9-2 overall record.
After a scoreless first half, Salum (Guatemala City, Guatemala) put Union on the board with a 15-yard shot in the 60th minute. Just prior to the goal, there was a 10-minute stoppage in play as Bryan goalkeeper Kara Nissley was injured. She remained in the game, and within a minute resuming action, Salum lofted a high-arching shot from 15-yards out that slipped in between the crossbar and Nissley's outstretched arms for a 1-0 Union lead.
Not willing to back down, Bryan maintained constant pressure and eventually knotted the score at 1-1 in the 82nd minute. Shelby Robinson boomed a 30-yard shot near the left sideline, and Union goalkeeper Patricia Nardy (Sao Paulo, Brazil) had trouble handling. Carli Milligan quickly gathered the rebound and drilled home an 8-yard shot.
Although the Lady Bulldogs upped the offensive pressure, the game seemed destined for overtime. However, after a throw-in for Union deep in Bryan territory, Salum collected the loose ball on the right side of the 6-yard box and lofted the ball that had nearly everyone believing it was going out of bounds for goal kick for Bryan. However, the ball hit the left post and went in for a goal, making it 2-1 Union in the 85th minute.
"We had a runner on the front post, and when the ball went over her head, we just thought it was going to bounce out of bounds on the far side," said Lanham of the game-winning goal. "It was just an amazing goal."
Union outshot Bryan 18-9, but eight of the Lady Lions shots were on goal with Nardy stopping seven. Nissley also recorded seven saves.
Nardy really came up big the first half for Union. Bryan had only two quality scoring chances, but in the midst of its five first-half shots on goal, Bryan had two wide-open shots from point-blank range. However, Nardy was up to the task as she made the stops.
Union had a couple of good chances during the opening 45 minutes, but Nissley stopped the Lady Bulldogs cold as the game went into the half tied at 0-0.
In the second half, Union's offense began clicking a little better and was eventually able find the back of the net.
"Ashley Hall (Hazard, Ky.) played great in the second half. Her runs were so smart and really opened things up for us," said Lanham. "We just played well in the second half. We wanted to win."
Union will await to see who its opponent is in the NAIA Women's Soccer National Tournament Opening Round. The official pairings will be announced Sunday.
Lady Bulldog Notes
- The multi-goal game was the sixth for Marcela Salum this season and the first since Oct. 1 when she scored twice against Milligan (Tenn.) College. Salum has 17 goals on the year.
- The conference tournament title is the first for Union since 2001 when it was a member of the Mid-South Conference. Union also won MSC Tournament titles in 1998 and 1999.
- The win was the 30th for head coach Jason Lanham, who is 30-7-1 (.802 winning percentage) in two seasons at Union.