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UT-Martin rallies to win OVC soccer tournament
Morehead State denied the Tennessee-Martin women's soccer team an NCAA tournament berth once before.
The Skyhawks made sure it didn't happen again, securing their first trip to the NCAA tournament Sunday.
UTM gained the Ohio Valley Conference's automatic NCAA berth by beating the Eagles 2-1 in the OVC tournament final at Houck Stadium.
UTM, seeded third for the six-team conference tournament, improved to 14-6-2. Third-seeded Morehead finished the season 11-8-3.
"We're extremely proud," second-year UTM coach Phil McNamara said. "It's exciting for the program."
The Skyhawks' only other appearance in the OVC tournament title match resulted in a 1-0 loss to Morehead in 2008.
It looked like history might repeat itself Sunday.
Defending OVC regular-season and tournament champion Morehead scored with a little more than nine minutes left in the first half. Senior midfielder Brittany MacLennan headed in a corner kick from senior defender Sarah Phillip.
Morehead carried that 1-0 advantage into the game's final 20 minutes, but the Skyhawks exploded for two goals.
"We had to be gutsy and brave," McNamara said of UTM's mindset entering the final period. "We put a lot of pressure on them."
Sophomore midfielder Hannah McGowen set up both goals with nice passes off free kicks.
Senior midfielder Melissa Govea's header with just under 19 minutes remaining tied the contest.
UTM, which pressed the action most of the second half, got the winner less than five minutes later. Freshman midfielder Lucy Pater re-directed a pass from McGowen into the right corner of the net as the low ball just snuck past Morehead senior keeper Katie Blevins.
"It hit off my knee and went in near post," Pater said. "This is so exciting. I am so happy and proud of all of them."
The Skyhawks had a 7-5 edge in shots while the Eagles held a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks.
UTM freshman keeper Mariah Klenke was strong, making three saves and coming out to handle several dangerous balls. Blevins was credited with one save.
Southeast Missouri State senior defender Shona Goodwin and junior defender Hayley Abbott were named to the nine-player all-tournament team.
UTM selections were Govea, Pater, Klenke and senior forward Rosaelia Loza.
Three Morehead players rounded out the all-tourney squad: MacLennan, senior forward Jillian Birchmeier and junior defender Alyssa Nacke.