MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. – After struggling to find the back of the net in its first four games, the King University women's soccer team earned its first victory on the strength of a second-half goal by Devon Shanklin and brilliant goalkeeping by Nicole Dagher.
The Tornado (1-4) were locked in an scoreless struggle with Milligan College (2-5-1) as the game progressed into the second half. In the 61st minute, a hard foul just outside the penalty area allowed King's Paula Doran and Lindsay Curtis to line up over the ball for a free kick. Doran faked, then Curtis sent a blistering shot over the wall and in front of the goal. The ball deflected off a number of players before Devon Shanklin pushed it into the net, setting off a wild celebration along the King sideline.
The lead would have evaporated had goalkeeper Nicole Dagher not made a number of spectacular saves. Just one minute after Shanklin gave the Tornado a 1-0 advantage, the King back line forced a shot in traffic that was deflected on what appeared to be an ideal goal-scoring opportunity. In the 75th minute, Milligan's Caroline Gill fired a one-timer from 20 yards out on the right side, but Dagher made a perfect read and deflected the ball just wide of the net on a full dive to her right. In all, Dagher would make five second half saves, including three in a two-minute span.
The game passed relatively uneventfully in the first 45 minutes, with both teams struggling to mount serious scoring chance and combining for just four shots on goal. King's best scoring opportunity came in a two-minute span late in the half when the Tornado were only able to muster a deflected shot from four consecutive corner kick opportunities.
Milligan nearly took a 1-0 lead as the period ended. The Buffaloes were awarded a free kick from 25 yards out, and Christine Hardin placed a shot on frame that Dagher stifled as time expired.
In contrast to the first 45 minutes, both teams played the second half at a frenetic pace. Shanklin's goal was the culmination of a 12-minute barrage that saw the Tornado take seven shots, including five on frame. In the midst of that span came another spectacular Dagher save off a Buffaloes corner kick that would have given Milligan the lead.
Just 56 seconds before Shanklin's goal, Rachel Thorpe nearly gave King the lead. Thorpe fired a shot from outside the penalty area that appeared destined to find the net just below the crossbar. But Milligan goalkeeper Lauren McInturff made the most brilliant of her six saves on the evening, leaping to deflect the ball just over the crossbar and prevent Thorpe from scoring for the second time this season.
The Tornado were outshot 17-14 in the contest, and Milligan held a slight 8-7 advantage in shots on goal. Shanklin and Thorpe combined for 10 shots, six of them on frame, in the contest.
"I was very happy with how we dug deep to get this win," said head coach Simon Duffy. "We stressed two things before the game: let's put some of the chances away that we're going to get, but also not to concede, to be mentally strong and dig deep. You saw that with five minutes to go. They were pushing and pushing and pushing, and we did a great job just to keep them at bay."
King will next face Pfeiffer at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday in the Conference Carolinas opener for both teams.