Redhawks earn bye for OVC tournament

Monday, October 25, 2010 ~ Updated 12:01 AM
Southeast Missouri State senior Ashley Runion tries to get a foot on the ball in front of Tennessee-Martin's Brooke Robertson during the second half Sunday at Houck Stadium. (Laura Simon)

Ashley Runion said she had a great senior day despite not coming away with a victory.

That's because the Southeast Missouri State soccer team actually won by tying in their final Ohio Valley Conference game of the season.

The Redhawks and Tennessee-Martin battled to a 0-0 double-overtime draw Sunday at Houck Staduim.

That result was enough to give Southeast the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye for the six-team OVC tournament that begins Nov. 4 in Morehead, Ky.

"It was definitely a good day," said Runion, the Redhawks' lone senior. "We still got the No. 2 seed."

Southeast Missouri State's Shona Goodwin, right, and Tennessee-Martin's Rosaelia Loza compete for the ball Sunday at Houck Stadium.

Southeast, 8-7-1 overall and 4-3-1 in OVC play, finished tied with Austin Peay for second in the nine-team league.

The Redhawks get the No. 2 seed for the tournament that will be hosted by regular-season champion Morehead State because they beat Austin Peay.

Runion, among the top players in Southeast history, is elated that the Redhawks are back in the conference tournament after not qualifying the past two years.

"It's great to make the tournament after a couple years of rebuilding," she said. "Now we're ready to win the tournament."

If the Redhawks do pull that off, it would give Runion bookend championships and NCAA tournament berths.

Runion, a graduate of Fort Zumwalt South High School in St. Peters, Mo., was the 2007 OVC freshman of the year and OVC tournament MVP as Southeast won the title.

That season started a stellar career that has Runion ranked among the top five in seven career school categories, including third in goals (23) and points (60) and fourth in assists (14).

Runion, a two-time all-OVC second-team selection who should receive more honors this year, is the second player in Southeast history to have at least 20 goals and 10 assists.

"Ashley will go down as one of the best ever to play here," Southeast coach Heather Nelson said. "She's had a fabulous career, and hopefully she's got quite a few games left."

Runion was recognized on the field with her family prior to Sunday's contest. She said it was an emotional time.

"I cried a little," said Runion, who leads Southeast this year with seven goals and 18 points.

There have been very few down moments for Runion despite Southeast not making the conference tournament the previous two seasons.

"I'm definitely happy with my career," said Runion, who is majoring in pre-physical therapy and plans to attend graduate school. "I've had a great time here. I couldn't be happier."

All the Redhawks were happy following Sunday's result. Southeast knew entering the first of two 10-minute sudden-death overtime periods that a draw would lock up the No. 2 seed for the tournament.

"We were checking scores," Nelson said. "We knew we'd get second, but we weren't playing for a tie."

While a deadlock accomplished what Southeast needed, results from elsewhere around the league made it necessary for UT-Martin to win in order to secure a tournament berth.

The Skyhawks (8-8-2, 3-4-1) had better scoring chances and had a 17-11 edge in shots but could not find the net.

Southeast freshman goalkeeper Ashton Aubuchon was strong in her sixth shutout of the season, making six saves.

"Getting the No. 2 seed, that's huge," Nelson said. "I'm very pleased with the season so far. We were hoping we could mature pretty quickly with 11 newcomers."

Southeast ends the regular season Wednesday, hosting Division II Quincy (Ill.) at 6 p.m.

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