The 14th-ranked Centre women’s soccer team moved into its fifth straight Southern Athletic Association (SAA) championship game with a 2-1 triumph over visiting Berry in an SAA semifinal matchup on Friday night at Hillside Field.
The top-seeded Colonels win their ninth consecutive match and improve to 17-1-2 on the year, while the fourth-seeded Vikings drop to 9-6-2.
Centre will now take on the winner of the Rhodes-Sewanee game on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Hillside Field. The Colonels are seeking their fifth SAA championship title in a row. All told, Centre has now appeared in six straight conference title games including the 2010 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) championship game.
The Colonels got on the board in the fifth minute when Alana Hughes (Lexington, Ky.) found the back of the net off the assist by senior forward Destinie Graves (Lexington, Ky.).
Just under six minutes later, Graves pushed the Colonels’ advantage to 2-0 with her 23rd goal of the season off the feed by Hughes. Graves’ 23 goals are just four fewer than her single-season school record 27-goal output last season.
Early in the second half, Berry cut the Centre lead to 2-1 when Emily Nixon netted a penalty kick goal in the 52nd minute of action.
The Colonels dominated possession for the remainder of the contest, holding an 11-2 shooting edge.
For the game, Centre outshot the Vikings 20-11. Corner kicks were an even 2-2 in the contest.
Senior goalkeeper Olivia Alford (Louisville, Ky.) tallied three saves the Colonels, who have now allowed one-or-fewer goals in 17 of 20 matches this season.
Berry goalie Jackie McGivney recorded five stops for the Vikings.
Graves finished with a game-high seven shots for the Colonels, including three shots on goal.
Friday night’s victory gives 13th-year head coach Jay Hoffman and Centre 17 wins for the third straight season and fourth time in five years.
A win on Sunday would give Hoffman and the Colonels a total of nine SAA titles. Centre posted wins over both Rhodes and Sewanee earlier this season with both victories coming in overtime. The Colonels have now won 14 straight SAA postseason matches, outscoring 40-6 in those wins.
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by Liam P. Halferty