Friday, 08 November 2019 09:05

App State Field Hockey Advances in MAC Tournament in Dramatic Fashion

Meghan Smart scored the game winner in overtime Meghan Smart scored the game winner in overtime Appalachian State Athletics

Junior Meghan Smart registered a golden goal in overtime to propel App State's field hockey team to a 5-4 victory against third-seeded Ohio, sending the Mountaineers to their second straight semifinal appearance in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

Freshman Rachel Fleig, who scored two goals in Thursday's triumph, fired an original shot before Smart swooped in to drive home the game-winner. Junior Veerle Van Heertum made a move to bypass an Ohio defender before sending the ball into the circle for the eventual golden goal.

App State will face No. 2 seed Miami (11-7) in the semifinals on Friday at 2:30 p.m.

"It was unreal, and I had to make sure the ball was actually in the cage," Smart said. "We battled back after Ohio scored every goal, and we came back down in our attacking end and tried to score. It was the grittiest our team has ever been, and we were resilient through the whole game."

The Mountaineers (11-8) never led in regulation, overcoming deficits throughout the game to send the quarterfinal matchup into overtime. After an Ohio goal in the 52nd minute, freshman Carli Ciocco answered with her first career goal less than one minute later to tie the game at 4-4. Ciocco charged Ohio goalkeeper Sophia Boothby, knocked the ball down with her stick on an attempted clearance and then buried the ball into an empty goal cage.

App State overcame its largest deficit near the end of the first half, scoring two goals in less than two minutes to erase a two-goal deficit. Freshman Rachel Fleig scored both App State goals to even the score at 3-3 entering halftime. Both of Fleig's goals came off Appalachian penalty corners, registering her first goal off an assist from Van Heertum before tying the game on a backhanded effort from the right side of the goal cage.

The Mountaineers quickly answered Ohio's opening goal, where freshman Pauline Mangold stole a pass near midfield and drove the ball all the way into the circle for a brilliant solo goal. Mangold's second goal of the MAC Tournament was also her second goal of the season.

Appalachian's defense withstood 24 shots and nine penalty corners attempts from the Bobcats (8-8) in regulation to force overtime. In overtime, senior goalkeeper Rachel Gaines made a save on Ohio's 10th penalty corner of the game. The Mountaineers took control afterward, recording the game's final three shots.

Fleig paced the Mountaineers with two goals, five shots and three shots on goal. Mangold and Van Heertum tied for second in shots with two shots apiece.

Gaines made eight saves in the goal cage, boosting her career total to 464. Her 464 saves rank sixth in program history.

App State's 5-4 overtime victory also avenges a wild 6-5 defeat to the Bobcats in the regular season, marking the second straight season the Mountaineers upset the No. 3 seed in the MAC Tournament.

"We did not start off well, but we responded well," head coach Meghan Dawson said. "We knew we had a battle today against Ohio, and we knew it would be tight. I'm proud of our girls because they pushed through. We had a lot of people step up, and our freshmen stepped up and gave us a new level of energy and aggression."

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