Lynchburg athletics is offering to cover admission to the Sweet 16 match vs. No. 2 Messiah for any Lynchburg students and alumni who fill out this Google Form by noon Friday, Nov. 16. Students must present current student ID at the gate.
Lynchburg, Va. -- Alyssa Rudy is making up for lost time this postseason.
After a series of injuries cost the University of Lynchburg women's soccer player her entire sophomore season and the first half of 2018, the winger felt she was coming into the most important part of her career as a relative unknown.
Rudy scored her second goal in as many games Sunday afternoon, the game-winner in Lynchburg's 2-0 triumph over No. 22 Emory U., which sends the Hornets into the program's second-consecutive NCAA Division III tournament Sweet 16. Seventeenth-ranked Lynchburg will play No. 2 Messiah in the next round Friday, Nov. 16 at Christopher Newport University. The match time is set for 5 p.m.
The Greencastle, Pa., native said the other, more recognizable offensive threats wearing Hornet jerseys have opened things up for players like her.
"I guess I bring something different to the team," Rudy said. "Everyone is focusing on them, and I just come in midseason and just play my game. They don't know who I am, so that's very helpful."
Opponents certainly know who wears No. 9 for Lynchburg now.
After scoring Lynchburg's second goal in a 2-1 first-round win over USA South champion Piedmont Saturday, Rudy subbed into Sunday's second-round match in the 27th minute and almost immediately forced the Eagle defense to make a save.
In the 37th minute, she scored, finishing a perfectly placed through-ball from senior forward Caitlin Mertens (Succasunna, N.J.) with ease to put No. 17 Lynchburg ahead, 1-0.
This weekend has been a far cry from the agony of last year, which she lost in its entirety after a preseason injury. Another injury sustained over the summer kept her off the pitch until October 13.
"It was like, 'Will I be able to play? I don't know,'" Rudy recalled. "And then I finally got cleared, and it's been so great to be able to play with them again."
All three of Rudy's goals this season have been in huge spots. She scored in the 88th minute of a match at Virginia Wesleyan October 23, the first of two Lynchburg goals late in regulation that forced a 2-2 draw.
And her unassisted 32nd-minute goal helped the Hornets overcome an early 1-0 deficit and into the second round of the national tournament for the seventh-straight season.
Then there was Sunday's. The Hornets were knocking on the door since the early going, but a stingy Emory defense held them off the board until late in the half. It was the only tally on the scoreboard until junior midfielder Emily Sanchez (Orangeburg, N.Y.) took senior midfielder Kennedy Jakubek's (Leesburg, Va.) cross in the 88th minute, beat a defender, and chipped the ball over the leaping Eagles keeper for a 2-0 advantage.
All the while, the Lynchburg defense was as solid as it's been all year. The Eagles didn't get a shot on goal in the first half, and senior goalkeeper Delia LoSapio (Raleigh, N.C.) tallied five second-half saves in her seventh shutout of the season.
The win sets up a Round of 16 match with second-ranked Messiah (19-1-1), which bested RIT, 1-0, in its second-round match.
The Falcons are, like Lynchburg, a perennial power in Division III women's soccer, having reached the NCAA tournament each of the last 18 seasons.
"We know the road to the final four goes through Messiah," said Lynchburg head coach Dr. Todd Olsen.
Olsen would know. His teams have reached two national semifinals.
The two programs have met in the tournament just once, however; Lynchburg advanced past the Falcons in penalty kicks in the 2014 national quarterfinals; the Hornets won the Division III championship that season.