Mahar paces Bobcats to at least share of conference crown

BANNER ELK, N.C. --- Freshman Sarah Mahar (Jacksonville, Fla.) scored midway through the 51st minute to lead the Lees-McRae College women's soccer team to a 1-0 victory over King College in Conference Carolinas play on Tate Field Tuesday evening.

With the win, Lees-McRae (10-5-1, 9-1 CC) clinches at least a share of the league's regular season title for the second straight year, securing the top seed in next week's Conference Carolinas Tournament by virtue of its victory over Belmont Abbey College earlier this fall.

The Bobcats controlled the run of play for much of the match, dominating possession and outshooting King (4-8-2, 3-6-2 CC) by a 25-3 margin, including an 18-1 onslaught in the second half.

Mahar accounted for all the scoring in the match, tying for the team-lead with her sixth goal of the campaign as Meagan Thornton (Millville, N.J.) added an assist. Alicia Pierson (Brooksville, Fla.) kept a clean sheet with one save on the night, while Tornado keeper Morgan Lawson tallied 10 saves in a fine effort for King.

Neither team would find the breakthrough in the opening 45 minutes, with the best chance of the half coming in the sixth minute when Emily Jones' (Leonardtown, Md.) point-blank effort off a Kaitlyn Kerrigan (Lakewood Ranch, Fla.) corner was parried just wide by the Tornado keeper.

Mahar would break the deadlock less than six minutes into the second half, unleashing a blast from 20 yards out into the bottom corner off a pass from Thornton to give the Bobcats a 1-0 advantage. The freshman forward nearly doubled the margin to 2-0 10 minutes later, ringing a shot off the bar from just outside the area at the hour mark.

King nearly leveled proceedings with its best scoring chance of the day in the 67th minute, when Rachel Thorpe's ball across the face of an open Bobcat goal was expertly headed clear by freshman defender Kate Brandon (Charlotte, N.C.). The Bobcats would continue to push forward in search of a second over the final 20 minutes, forcing Lawson into four skillful saves to preserve the one-goal margin.

Lees-McRae returns to the pitch on Saturday when the Bobcats host Mount Olive College with a chance to secure the outright conference crown for the second year in a row. The Bobcats will honor their 2012 senior class prior to kickoff, which is slated for 2 p.m. on Tate Field.

- LMC -