PENSACOLA, Fla. – Valdosta State's season ended at the hands of North Alabama Friday night as the Blazers fell, 1-0, to the Lions in VSU's historic first appearance in the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
The match was hard fought throughout with both teams earning plenty of opportunities, but it was Jennifer Osmond's goal off a rebound that decided the match.
The Blazers finished with 14 shots to North Alabama's 17 while placing five on goal. The Lions put eight on goal to force Olivia Mills to finish the match with more saves than UNA's goalkeeper Morgan Grace. Mills finished with seven saves while Grace had five. Valdosta State held the advantage in corner kicks, 12-9.
Valdosta State and North Alabama played a pretty even match in the early going, but there were opportunities in the latter part of the first half. With 19:24 left to play in the opening frame, Valdosta State saw a great opportunity.
Midfielder Lauren Hale shot from the middle of the field, forcing North Alabama goalkeeper Morgan Grace to make a diving save. Freshman forward Erin Hill took a shot off the rebound. Grace made another great save to keep the match scoreless.
About three and a half minutes later, Olivia Mills stymied North Alabama's best opportunity. The Lions found one of their best players, Chloe Roberts, ahead of the pack streaking to the net. She had a one on one with Mills and tried to beat Mills across to the left side. Mills made a diving save to match Grace.
Both keepers had three saves on all of the shots on goal in the first half while North Alabama held a slight edge in shots, 9-8, at the break.
Leanne Bishop joined Hale and Hill as the only Blazers to put a shot on goal in the first frame. Hale and Hill led VSU in overall shots with two each.
Just three minutes into the second half, Valdosta State had another missed opportunity in front of the goal. The Blazers just couldn't get a meaningful touch to slide the ball past the keeper.
Early in the eighth minute, North Alabama's Nikki Brown had an opportunity off a rebound but Mills skied high for another save.
About a minute later, UNA scored the first goal of the match. Mills made a series of saves on the possession, but, after a number of shots, Osmond was able to score for the 1-0 Lion lead off the rebound of a Melanie Leonida shot.
Late in the 21st minute, the Lions had another opportunity on a Chloe Richards breakaway, but she hit the crossbar.
Rebecca Miller gave the Blazers a spark in the last 15 minutes. She had the ball in the corner and maneuvered around three Lions to put a shot in the top right corner of the goal. The UNA keeper made a jumping save to force the ball off the crossbar.
That would be Valdosta State's best chance to tie the match late. The Blazers would not get another one.
Valdosta State ends its season at 13-6-2.