TULSA, Okla. - In its first season of the Southland Conference, the Oral Roberts women's soccer team was somewhat of a surprise to their new foes, making a push to enter the conference tournament with a first round bye.
When all was said and done, the Golden Eagles (11-6-2, 5-3-0) closed the season in fourth in the standings, a spot ahead of the preseason predictions, matching them up with Sam Houston State (7-10-1, 4-3-1) in the opening round of the conference tournament this weekend. ORU and the Bearkats will kick off in Lake Charles, La., at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The six team tournament, hosted by McNeese State, features first round byes to the top two seeds, including regular season champions Stephen F. Austin and second place Lamar. By virtue of their victory over the Golden Eagles on Oct. 21, Southeastern Louisiana is the third seed, with Sam Houston and McNeese rounding out the field with the fifth and sixth seeds, respectively.
The winner of Thursday's match between the Golden Eagles and the Bearkats will be challenged with a match against SFA on Friday. The championship game will take place on Sunday at 1 p.m.
In the regular season match, the Golden Eagles got the best of the Bearkats at the Case Soccer Complex as Kayla Keller put a Jennifer Abernathy header into the net for the game-winner in the final minute of double-overtime for the victory, 1-0. Senior Whitney Booth started the double-assisted goal off with a cross from the right corner.
Despite the close score and exciting finish, the Golden Eagles dominated the control of the ball, eventually outshooting the Bearkats, 28-8.
Freshman goalkeeper highlights the Bearkat squad as she was named the conference's freshman of the year, the league offices announced on Tuesday. Hambleton saved 12 of her total 75 shots on the season against the Golden Eagles.
Another freshman, Katie Ferrara, leads Sam Houston with four goals during the regular season schedule. Kayla Anders, Kirby Zak and Ferrara were each All-Southland Second Team selections this season.
Head coach Ryan Bush's squad takes the field on Thursday coming off a victory this past Friday in double-overtime against Central Arkansas, 2-1. Megan Giles assisted on both goals, put in by Kayla Keller and Allison Hall, in the season finale.