Spartanburg, S.C. – USC Upstate senior keeper Sarah Plantz tied a season-high with 11 saves and picked up her fourth shutout of the season in helping the Spartans earn a point in the conference standings following a scoreless draw with Mercer Sunday afternoon from County University Soccer Stadium.
Plantz, the reigning Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year, registered nine saves in the second half and overtime periods combined, which included stopping a bevy of shots inside a crowded box as time expired in the second overtime.
Mercer (7-5-2, 2-1-1) nearly netted the golden goal just seconds into the first overtime period on a strike off the foot of midfielder Brianna Stampler. Following a cross from the left side of the field that drew Plantz off her post and near the top of the box, Stampler managed to control the loose ball with nothing but the goal and space between her. Her chip shot, however, sailed high and out of harm's way.
Upstate (3-6-3, 0-2-1) sophomore midfielder Kenzie Major was inches from putting the Spartans ahead late in the second half, but her shot in the 83rd minute was just wide of a diving Maggie Cropp. Sophomore Haley Gethin delivered a perfect through ball to the feet of a streaking Major on the left side of the field. Major controlled the ball in stride and dribbled her way through the Bear defense to attempt a shot at the net that went just to the right of the goal.
Cropp almost gave Mercer the lead minutes prior in the 79th minute when her free kick from midfield made it all the way to the Spartan back line. Plantz initially leapt to attempt to make the save, but the ball managed to avoid her grip and fell to the ground. Plantz immediately found sight of the loose ball and made a quick dive to her right to corral the ball and keep the game scoreless.
Plantz's best save of the afternoon came in the 74th minute following a shot of the foot of Kim Murphy. With the Bears on the attack, Murphy found her way into the teeth of the Upstate defense and used a pass from a teammate to send a clear strike that appeared to be headed into the right corner of the net. Plantz, however, immediately dove to her right and caught the ball with her outstretched hands.
Mercer let its best scoring opportunity pass by early in the second half on a shot from leading scorer Washida Blackman. Following a pass from Stampler, Blackman fired an uncontested shot at the Upstate goal that hit the crossbar and rolled around on top before falling back into the field of play and into the waiting arms of Plantz.
Upstate returns to action Friday at 7 p.m. when the Spartans travel to DeLand, Fla., to take on Stetson.