Lynchburg, Va. -- After finding itself in an early hole, University of Lynchburg's women's soccer team knocked and knocked.
In the 31st minute Saturday afternoon, the door swung wide open.
Senior forward Caitlin Mertens (Succasunna, N.J.) hammered home a goal on graduate student midfielder Rachel Cooke's (Charlottesville, Va.) assist and, just over a minute later, junior Alyssa Rudy (Greencastle, Pa.) put Lynchburg ahead for good, sending the Hornets into the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament with a 2-1 win over Piedmont on Shellenberger Field. It was the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
The USA South champion Lions grabbed an early lead when a second-minute corner kick by Samantha Ishee found its way to the near post, where an unmarked Anslyn Stamps gave the visitors an early lead.
Piedmont (17-5-1) nearly doubled the advantage in the 20th minute when Cooke's header saved a goal just in front of the line.
But after the save, it was all Lynchburg.
The seventeenth-ranked Hornets (19-2-2) took the final 12 shots of the first half, collecting two goals, and decisively kept their season alive. Mertens was the next with the heroics.
Shortly after hitting the crossbar with a shot, the Old Dominion Athletic Conference player of the year took a cross from Cooke and finished into the left side of the net to lock the score at 1.
Following a 32nd-minute corner kick by freshman midfielder Taylor Smith (Chesapeake, Va.), Rudy got the ball in the ensuing scrum and forced it across the line to give Lynchburg a lead it would not relinquish.
The Hornets kept up the pressure into the half and would have piled onto the lead if not for a Herculean effort from Lions keeper Miranda McNalley.
McNalley saved everything that was thrown at her after the break as well, making five more of her 11 saves in the final 45 minutes to keep the deficit at one.
But Lynchburg's defense held fast, too. Senior goalkeeper Delia LoSapio (Raleigh, N.C.) thwarted both Piedmont chances that came her way in the second half, setting up a season's second meeting with No. 22 Emory U. (14-4-1), which bested Penn State Berks, 1-0, in overtime of the day's late match thanks to a golden goal from Abbe McCarter.
Lynchburg defeated Emory, 1-0, September 15 at the Sewanee Invitational.
The meeting will be the first between the two in the postseason since the Eagles defeated Lynchburg, 2-1, in the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament. Lynchburg has taken three of the five postseason meetings between the two schools.
Sunday's match will be at 3 p.m. on Shellenberger Field. Admission is $8 for adults and $3 for seniors and students with ID.