BUIES CREEK – Senior midfielder Pirjo Leppikangas (Helsinki, Finland) was able to break open a match that was scoreless at halftime by scoring three goals over the final 30 minutes of play. Leppikangas made the most of her four shot attempts, scoring in a variety of ways and registering the first CU hat trick since Bonnie Trader scored three goals against Charleston Southern on October 6th, 1998.
Both teams battled for control in the first half, with play moving back and forth. Campbell (7-3, 1-0 BSC) outshot Gardner-Webb 5-3, but neither club put a shot on goal in the opening period.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (2-5-3, 0-2 BSC) controlled play for the first 15 minutes of the second half, but momentum switched just before Leppikangas notched her first goal. Campbell began getting more chances on the offensive attack, when at the 61:34 mark, Leppikangas deflected a corner kick from Annabelle Gibney (Melbourne, Australia) into the net to give the Camels a 1-0 lead.
The Camels would hold the 1-0 advantage over the next 15 minutes, but it was threatened when a foul was called on CU inside the box, giving GWU a penalty kick. Dawn Rollyson took the shot with 13:34 remaining and Ryann Torrero (Burbank, Calif.) made a diving save to her right that preserved the slid lead.
Leppikangas took care of the rest, using a skillful run through the defense to convert a second goal with just over eight minutes remaining in the match. "The thing about Pirjo is the same with our other attacking players; if they get hot it's tough to stop them," head coach Todd Clark said. "If a team controls one, then another player is going to step up. We have shown that kind of depth all year."
With just over 30 seconds remaining in the contest, Leppikangas took a free kick from 40 yards out that found its way just underneath the crossbar and into the back of the net to complete the hat trick.
Torrero garnered her fourth shutout of the season while making two saves on the night. The redshirt junior goalie lowered her goals against average to 1.09 for the season.
The victory gives the Camels a triumphant return to the Big South Conference, of which CU was a member in the inaugural 1993 season (the first year the Big South sponsored women's soccer). "We joke that we were undefeated in the Big South for 17 years," Clark said about the team's return. "We had to play well to beat a team like Gardner-Webb that has experienced so much success over the years."
Campbell will travel to Rock Hill, S.C. to take on Winthrop on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. "In a league with so much parity, going on the road is a tough thing," Clark said. "We've prepared our team by going on the road and playing in hostile environments during our non-conference schedule, so we're excited for the challenge."