Georgia Southern had never been to the women’s NCAA national championship soccer tournament.
Nobody seeded lower than fourth had ever reached the Southern Conference tournament finals, let alone won it.
Regardless of where it has been seeded, GSU had never won the SoCon crown.
Sunday in Birmingham, Ala., when GSU’s Sydnie Van Curen made the Eagles’ fifth penalty kick and Furman couldn’t match it, all of that changed.
The No. 8 Eagles shocked the No. 3 Furman, winning 5-4 on penalty kicks, to claim Georgia Southern’s first-ever SoCon title and give GSU an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins Friday.
During the regular season, the Eagles’ last three losses came against the three teams they defeated in the tournament.
"We had the opportunity to go back and avenge those losses that we dropped earlier in the year against UNCG and Elon and Furman," said second-year head coach Lindsey Vanderspiegel. "We ended up being able to avenge all three, so it feels good."
The Eagles completely ignored the fact that they were the No. 8 seed, focusing instead on back-to-back wins over Wofford and Davidson that ended the regular season.
"We felt like eight was just a number to us," Vanderspiegel said. "We knew we could get anybody in the conference, and that’s what we did."
The Eagles will play their first-ever NCAA tournament game Saturday at Wake Forest at 7 p.m.
"This is all brand new ground for Georgia Southern, but we’ll be ready, as we always are," Vanderspiegel said.
Common opponent UNC Greensboro defeated the Demon Deacons, 1-0, during the regular season.
The winner between Wake Forest and the Eagles will face the winner between Notre Dame and Milwaukee in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.