EVANS, Ga. — Almost a year after winning its first national championship in program history, West Florida will have a chance to defend its title after advancing to the NCAA finals with a 2-1 semifinal victory in overtime against Western Washington on Thursday afternoon.
“Western Washington was a fantastic competitor,” Bartlinski said. “They deserved to be in a semifinal. Had we not sunk that goal.
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Senior Sashana Campbell scored the game winner in overtime off of a pass from Chelsea Palmer to seal the Argonaut victory. Last season, it was Palmer who scored the game winner in double overtime to advance UWF to the finals.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Campbell said. “It’s like déjà vu from last year. Once they scored, I thought, ‘it’s game time. It’s business time’.”
The Argos (18-0-3) were held scoreless for 67 minutes, but Campbell capitalized on a long pass from Palmer and worked past the WWU keeper to score the first goal of the game.
The Vikings responded with four shots and five corners in the final 10 minutes of the game before sending a header into the back of the UWF net with 34 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.
“I told them right before the overtime, ‘We’ve been in this situation before’,” Bartlinski said. “We gave up a late goal to go into overtime last year. I said, ‘We’re going to get chances early, so let’s finish those chances.’ I’m glad Sashana was listening.”
Three minutes into overtime, UWF got the opportunity when Palmer lofted a pass to Campbell who beat her defender.
“I just toe poked it,” Campbell said. “I didn’t even watch it go in. I just poked it, took off running and thought, ‘just one more game’.”
Keeper Sarah Story made several spectacular saves throughout the game, including two in the final 10 minutes of regulation before surrendering the goal. She helped UWF win its seventh consecutive NCAA tournament game by one goal dating back to last season’s quarterfinal.
“I think it means we have a great defense,” Story said. “Coach says all the time, ‘Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.’ Give credit to their offense. They gave us a tough time back there. But, I’m just happy with my team. If everyone wasn’t on the same page, we wouldn’t be here right now.”
UWF will play Grand Valley State at noon Saturday. GVSU (23-0-1) won the 2009 and ’10 national championship and was knocked out by UC San Deigo in the semifinals last season.
UWF is on a conference-record 34-game unbeaten streak and a 15-game winning streak.