The AU women’s soccer team (3-8) extended their winning streak to three games after defeating the University of Vermont Catamounts 2-1 Sept. 24.
The Eagles dominated the Catamounts (1-8) in the first half, executing a clear mission to push the ball down the flanks and serving the ball to the top of the box in the hopes for an early score.
“We were trying to keep it on the ground,” head coach David Bucciero said about the plan of attack. “We had heard Vermont was a pretty direct team and they were dangerous on the counterattack.”
The Catamount defense, after being pressured early for the first 10 minutes by sophomore midfielder Kendra Jones, finally broke down in front of an attack by senior Brooke Sheppard and freshman Shaena Alfonsi. After a shot from Sheppard rebounded off the top of the crossbar and bounced back to the top of the 18-yard box, Sheppard received the ball and poked it past Vermont’s diving goalie.
“It kind of picked up our confidence,” Alfonsi said. “We knew we could win from the start, so it kind of gave us a little boost. I was excited because it was my first goal [as an Eagle].”
The Eagles attack relented only when Vermont’s Alison Hemphill evened the score, firing a scorcher from 30 yards out that went above AU’s goalie, junior Arianna Efstathiou, in the 23rd minute.
The AU defense looked strong throughout the game, pushing forward and forcing the Catamounts to take shots from far outside the box. A temporary breakdown caused freshman Mackenzie Kerrigan to receive a yellow card for a tactical foul outside the box in the 34th minute, but the Eagles were able to clear the ball without a problem.
AU started off the second half right where it left off, continuing to drive the ball down the flanks and cross it to the middle.
After one of six Eagle corners, freshman Brenna Smith scored her first goal as an Eagle, putting her squad on top of the Catamounts for the rest of the game. The scramble in the box placed the pressure on Vermont for the rest of the game. Smith had been the driving force of the offense for the first 13 minutes, driving shots and parrying crosses until her hard work paid off.
“The ball got sent in and Michelle [Montilio] flicked it and I headed it and the goalie kind of caught it and then she kind of bobbled it, and that’s how it went in,” Smith said. “[It was] really exciting because I don’t really expect to score because I’m on defense”.
The Eagles continued to put pressure on Vermont, knocking shot after shot at Alyssa Kelly, but couldn’t put another past the Catamount goalie. With 23 shots compared to Vermont’s 13, AU showed control on the offensive half of the field.
“It’s great for our confidence and it’s great to have some momentum going into conference play,” said Bucciero.
The Eagles’ defense will need to continue shutting down the attack of opponents if they expect to win their first conference game at Bucknell University Oct. 2.
Bucciero remains confident about his team’s ability.
“I certainly feel like we have a team to have success,” he said. “We have to concentrate a little bit better, but we have the ability.”