Lynchburg Upends Rowan, Heads to NCAA Quarterfinals

Lynchburg Upends Rowan, Heads to NCAA Quarterfinals

SALISBURY, Md. --- Emily Dudley saved the ball from squirting out of bounds and turned up the endline.

Between the University of Lynchburg junior and the goal stood three defenders, including one of the most decorated goalkeepers in NCAA Division III.

She beat them all.

Dudley reached the near post and squeezed a shot off, tripping over diving Profs keeper Morgan Novak in the process. But the ball rolled past Novak and across the line just before the Rowan defense cleared it away.

Goal, Lynchburg!

The Hornets' defense made Dudley's 13th-minute score hold up the rest of the way, earning a 1-0 win over eighth-ranked Rowan to advance to the quarterfinal round of the national tournament for the first time since 2012.

The 16th-ranked Hornets (20-3) will square off Sunday with No. 3 Salisbury at 1 p.m. at SU's Sea Gull Stadium. Salisbury (19-1) topped FDU-Florham, 1-0, in Saturday's first Round of 16 contest.

Dudley pressured the Rowan defense all day with her signature move -- using a backhand touch to keep the ball wide away from her 5-foot-7 frame.

"When I got the ball, I knew that I was going to do that move," the Lynchburg junior said. "Rowan was very good at pressuring and played really good defense. Our elimination skills were just there today."

She led the Lynchburg attack with four shots on the day, but the story after the early Hornets goal was defense.

Lynchburg's back line held the Profs to just three shots-on-goal in the game, and junior goalkeeper Laurel Nicks was a wall in front of the cage, saving them all.

The Hornets withstood six penalty corners from Rowan in the second half, battling windy conditions with gusts up to 40 mph against the Lynchburg attack in the second half.

"It was almost like running uphill today," Hornets head coach Enza Steele said.

The win was Lynchburg's 15th straight, powered by a defense that hasn't allowed more than one goal in its 14 games since this year's previous win over Rowan, a 4-3 decision Sept. 29 at Liberty University. Lynchburg has posted shutouts in three of the past four contests.

Sunday's will be the ninth meeting between Lynchburg and Salisbury, two of the perennial powers in Division III field hockey. The Sea Gulls have won five of the previous eight -- including the last three bouts -- but Lynchburg took the only meeting between the two in the NCAA tournament, advancing in penalty strokes in a second-round game of the 2001 championship.

Steele anticipates another classic this time around, a defensive battle between teams that have outscored opponents by a combined 143-32 this season.

"I think it might be a battle of goalkeepers tomorrow," Steele said. "We're evenly matched. We just need to play strong and play confident."

--- This release is courtesy of the University of Lynchburg sports information department. ---