HANOVER, Ind. -- Hanover College scored quickly and added another late to top the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology women's soccer team 2-0 in Wednesday's Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference semifinal, advancing the Panthers to the HCAC title game.
No. 1-seeded Hanover (16-1-2) will host 3-seed Transylvania, a 2-0 winner at Manchester, in Saturday's 1 p.m. final.
The Fightin' Engineers (10-6-4) fell victim to an unlucky goal early in Tuesday's contest, when Hanover's Rebecca Tumlin fired a shot from the top that hit the crossbar and bounced back into play, where Rachel Alvis drilled in the rebound in the 7th minute.
Rose-Hulman would battle the Panthers for the next 77 minutes without a score before Sirena Isador recorded the match's second score off a Hanover corner kick. With Rose-Hulman keeper Lucinda Combs (Danville, Ky./Boyle County) caught in the middle pack, Isador converted the loose ball just under the cross bar to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead in the 84th minute.
Rose-Hulman had a chance to tie the match just prior to Hanover's second goal when senior Nicky Wheeler (Avon, Ind./Avon) broke down the right side, crossing the ball to sophomore teammate Hayley Gilliam (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville). But Hanover keeper Morgan Cole (two saves) stopped the threat to help seal the win.
"I am very proud of this team," RHIT head coach Amy Helliwell said of the Engineers. "They battled hard throughout the year despite injuries and adversity -- they stepped up and played for each other."
The Panthers outshot Rose-Hulman 21-8 in the contest, although the Engineers kept the shot margin within 7-5 in the opening 45 minutes. RHIT senior Rachel Johnstone (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland) led her squad with three shots and Wheeler and Hayley Gilliam had two shots each.
Combs finished the game with three saves for Rose-Hulman, which advanced to the HCAC tournament for the first time since 2009 and finished in fourth place in the HCAC regular-season standings, accomplishing a team goal. RHIT's record of 10-6-4 -- which included a school-record 11 shutouts -- also marked the program's highest win total since 2008.
Wednesday's contest marked the final match in a RHIT uniform for the Engineers' four seniors -- Wheeler, Johnstone, Amanda Kingman (Plano, Texas/Senior) and Cassie Cox (Louisville, Ky./Manual).
"I will miss this fine group of seniors and I thank them for their years of dedication to the program," Helliwell added. "They've left a positive mark on this team and this program."
Wheeler finished the season with seven goals and four assists for a team-high 18 points and Johnstone added two goals and an assist at the forward position.
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