The mantra for this year's USC Beaufort women's soccer team is "Prove It," and the Sand Sharks proved they will be a factor in the Sun Conference in their second season, giving SCAD Savannah a scare in the teams' conference opener before falling 2-1 in overtime Wednesday at Fin Land Field.
Meadhbh Deeney's header off a cross from Nikki Wittak 8:33 into overtime lifted the Bees (4-3, 1-0 Sun Conference) to a hard-fought victory after Shelby Dieckamp capitalized on a cross from Lisa Singleton to net the equalizer in the 80th minute.
The game-winner denied USCB its first Sun Conference victory, but it didn't take away from Sand Sharks coach Ed Heberling's feeling that his team proved it will be a dangerous squad in the conference. USCB was picked 11th of 12 teams in the preseason, while SCAD was picked fourth.
"We just went to overtime with a team that beat the No. 6 team in the nation a week ago," Heberling said. "They're No. 28 right now, and we showed we can compete."
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USCB (4-5, 0-1 Sun Conference) controlled the first half but settled for a scoreless tie at the break. The Sand Sharks broke through nine minutes into the second half, when Kathleen Kent and Emily Mentrup teamed up for the night's first goal.
The Bees gave Kent space on a free kick from 35 yards out, so she played a quick touch to Mentrup, who gave it back. Kent dribbled in to about 25 yards and rocketed a shot through goalie Ciara Thomas' hands and into the top-right corner.
The Sand Sharks were able to sustain the lead until the 80th minute thanks to a strong defense and keeper Chelsie Mummert, who stopped 11 shots, including some spectacular saves. SCAD finally broke through to tie it when Singleton chased down a ball in the right corner and made a move to the inside to create some space, then sent a cross to Dieckamp, who sent it inside the left post.
USCB played the final six minutes of regulation and all of overtime short-handed after Alexa Muffley was sent off for her second yellow card, but the Sand Sharks still managed to generate some scoring chances in the extra period, narrowly missing on a pair of potential game-winners.
SCAD didn't waste its best opportunity, as Wittak sent a cross from the right side into the box, and Deeney buried it in the net with a powerful header.
"We gave them everything they wanted and felt like it was a very evenly matched game," Heberling said. "The goal it ended on was a beautiful goal. You can't take that away from them. It just didn't go our way this time. There are too many positives to build on to get caught up on the overtime loss, and that's what we're going to do."
The Sand Sharks will try to bounce back in a non-conference home game against St. Andrews Presbyterian at 5 p.m. Monday.