The Radford women’s soccer program earned its ninth Big South tournament championship Sunday afternoon 2-1 over USC Upstate thanks to Ashley Loundermon and Lilly Short’s second goals of the tournament.
The tournament win is the ninth in program history and the ninth in head coach Ben Sohrabi‘s time at Radford. Radford will be making its tenth appearance in the NCAA Tournament this weekend, the first Big South program to reach double digit appearances.
“We had a great conference regular season and had a bullseye on our back all year defending our 2022 title,” commented head coach Ben Sohrabi. “Our mentality was that we had to back it up. We found a way to get it done in the semifinals and move on today too.”
Opposing playstyles clashed in the match as Radford’s defense took on the task of containing the best offense in the conference. The intensity was on full display early as the two squads combined for six shots in the opening 15 minutes of play.
Radford’s aggression would pay off in the 32nd minute. Alexeis Kirnos and Short combined around midfield squeezing past a stout Spartan defensive line to find Loundermon alone in the middle of the box. Loundermon, who scored the game-winner against Charleston Southern in the semifinals, placed a perfect header past the outstretched goalie for the 1-0 lead.
Radford’s defense would thwart every USC Upstate opportunity for the rest of the first half. Freshman Caitlyn Nottingham played exceptionally early on pairing up against senior competition and not backing down. Freshman Lexi Radvanyi was also elite, earning a trio of saves in the first 45.
Entering the second half Radford kept their aggression knowing a second goal would be pivotal. It would only take 14 minutes into the half as Radford would pick up the eventual game-winner in stunning fashion.
In the 70th minute, Helena Willson lined up for a free kick at right about the same spot as her game-winner in the 2022 Championship. The senior leader placed a perfect pass right in front of the net that found the head of Lilly Short who left no doubt with a strong strike past the goalie for the 2-0 lead. With the goal, Short would join Loundermon as Highlanders with two goals in the tournament.
That goal would indeed prove pivotal for Radford as USC Upstate did what they do best, put constant pressure on opposing defenses. The Spartans would find multiple opportunities over the closing minutes but the defensive line found answers at every corner. In the 79th minute, USC Upstate found their response. The Spartans got a one-on-one opportunity which Radvanyi initially made an incredible save on before a trailing Spartan tapped in the deflected shot for the goal.
Up just 2-1, Radford needed to dig deep to avoid extra time. Willson, Nottingham, Kayla Edwards, and Jillian Silverstone put up some of their best work of the season and kept Radford in the lead. The minutes would turn to seconds and as the clock hit zero Radford was back on top of the Big South for back-to-back seasons.
Radford will remain undefeated at the Matthews Sportsplex with an 8-0 record over four tournaments. The tournament victory joins the 2018, 2019 and 2022 squads. The queens of Matthews have outscored opponents 15-5 in those four tournaments.
At the postgame trophy ceremony Radford was also awarded their all-tournament selections. Willson, Kirnos, Loundermon and Short were all named to the all-tournament team while Short would take home Tournament MVP honors.
“We have a great culture in our program and the standard we expect,” added Sohrabi. “It’s passed down from older player to younger player and been like that especially since 2017. I’m so proud of this group and what they did today. I give a lot of credit to USC Upstate. They’re such a tough team to play. They’re well coached and have a style that works well for them.”
Radford will now await its selection into the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
“I’m looking forward to the NCAA Tournament,” finished Sohrabi. “We’re better prepared than last year thanks to scheduling multiple tournament teams in our nonconference schedule this year. We are prepared and our girls know what to expect.”
Radford University Athletics