Bulldogs headed back to Orange Beach --
LEBANON -- Freshman Emily Shires scored twice and assisted on another goal, as 11th-ranked Cumberland rolled to a 5-0 victory over the University of Rio Grande in the NAIA Championship Women's Soccer Opening Round Saturday at Lindsey Donnell Stadium-Kirk Field.
The Bulldogs (16-3-1) advance to the NAIA Championships final site in Orange Beach, Ala., for the third consecutive year and will take either Concordia [CA] University or Bellevue University Tuesday, December 2 at 4 p.m. Central Time.
The Bulldogs controlled possession for almost the entire first half but created few scoring chances, taking just seven shots but only two on frame.
Cumberland's swarming defense limited the Red Storm to just two shots on goal the entire afternoon, making for an easy afternoon for Bulldog keeper Lindsay Kitson who finished with no saves.
"We've done a lot of work the last week on our defense," said CU coach Gavin McKinney. "We were beaten in the conference finals by Lindsey Wilson and we conceded far too many goals. It's been a focus of ours to win the ball back whenever we lost it."
CU finally broke through in the 35th minute, with Kaitlin Kisiloski crossing from wide right to the back post. Shires half-volleyed the cross right into the hands of URG keeper Allison Keeney, but the rebound bounced straight out and Shires beat a defender to the ball, booting it into basically an empty net for her ninth goal of the season and a 1-0 Cumberland advantage.
The second half started with much more open play by both teams and Cumberland took advantage, with Kaitlin Phillips putting home a rebound after Shires' shot hit the post in the 56th minute. Phillips' strike actually hit the cross bar and bounced down but over the goal line for her 11th goal of the season.
Beautiful short passing from Phillips to Shauna Gilpin and then Olivia Chu led to a penalty kick in the 68th minute for the Bulldogs, with Taylor Nay converting the PK, her 14th goal of the year.
Shires scored again in the 79th minute, taking a long pass down the left side from Mackenzie Keele and blasting it off the hands of Keeney into the net to put the match away.
"Emily Shires was excellent today," McKinney said. "She's come up big for us in a few key games and she's still a young kid. She was Freshman of the Year in the conference and today she showed why."
Chu made a nice run down the left side in the final minute and her hard cross turned into an own goal, with Rio's Carrie Mathes booting the shot into her own net for the final goal.
Rio Grande ended the season with a record of 12-6-0.