HIGH POINT — Giving up the first three goals, the High Point University women’s soccer team never fully recovered against Campbell on Friday night.
The third-seeded Camels added a fourth goal to the start of the second half and that proved to be the match-winner in a 4-3 victory as the Panthers’ late rally fell short in the Big South championship final at Vert Stadium.
The loss was the first of the season for the Panthers (10-1), who had only given up three goals in all of its previous games and had given up no more than one in a game.
With the victory, the Camels improve to 8-3-1 and receive the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
“I’m incredibly proud of this team and the season that we had,” HPU head coach Brandi Fontaine said. “We couldn’t ask for them to give us anything more in the final game. Hats off to Campbell for putting in the work. I’m proud of how we fought until the end.”
HPU’s troubles began shortly after the opening whistle.
Just 90 seconds into the match, tournament MVP Elyssa Nowowieski seized on an opportunity when she got to a loose ball in the middle of the box and fired home a shot to put the Camels up 1-0.
The woes grew for the Panthers when they lost control of the ball in the Campbell end in the 10th minute. Bayleigh Humbert passed the ball to Nowowieski, who connected from the middle of the box.
The Campbell lead grew to three goals when the Camels struck after another HPU turnover. Amber Liston sent a cross into the box and Olivia Neal converted in the 32nd minute.
Magdalena Schwarz put HPU on the board two minutes later. Skyler Prillaman took a long pass, dribbled to the right of the goal and got off a shot. The ball bounced off the right post, slid across just out of the reach of the Camel keeper to the left side, where Schwarz knocked it in.
The half ended with the Camels up 3-1 after keeping the pressure on the Panthers most of the time.
HPU’s hopes of a quick start in the second half were dashed when HPU Morgan Hairston came out to get a pass and was beaten to the ball. Jessica Donald of the Camels controlled it and then easily sent it into an open net less than a minute into the half.
HPU climbed to within 4-2 in the 50th minute as Schwarz grabbed a pass from Juliette Vidal and took advantage of an empty net when Camels keeper Stephanie Martelli unsuccessfully came out to stop her.
The Panthers then pulled within one on Sam Gerhart’s goal in the 69th minute. Skyler Prillaman sent a cross into the box and it was headed by the Camels. The ball went almost straight up and Gerhart was waiting to head it into the net when it came down.
With a continued push on offense in the second half, HPU finished with a 15-10 advantage in total shots but trailed 7-5 at the half. The Panthers carved out a 7-5 margin in shots on goal but didn’t muster a serious chance in the last five minutes.
Martelli finished with four saves while Hairston had two.