On a chilly fall day at Reeves Field, AU and Bucknell women’s soccer jockeyed for position both in the field and in the Patriot League standings, but the Bison prevailed 1-0.
Both teams consistently kept offensive pressure on each other throughout the game. AU moved the ball swiftly in the first half, making several crosses towards goal and obtaining two corner kicks. However, the game’s lone goal scored by Bucknell freshman forward Talia Szatkowski moved AU further away from Patriot League tournament contention.
In front of a large crowd of 361 spectators, four AU seniors earned recognition on the field before the start of the game. Goalkeeper Courtney Bembenek, defender Kassie Bryant, midfielder Kristen DeRiggi and forward Kelly Donovan all recieved photo posters and support from the audience as they were honored for their contributions to the team. Bembenek was the only graduating senior who did not play.
Heading into the match, AU and Bucknell stood separated by one game in the Patriot League standings. The Eagles entered the contest coming off a 5-0 loss on the road to Penn. The Bison entered unbeaten in their last four matches. Both teams needed a win to inch closer towards the PL quarterfinals.
The Eagles defense contained the Bison in the first half, not giving them a chance to get a shot on goal and drawing cheers from AU supporters. AU kept the ball in Bucknell’s half of the field in the early minutes. The Eagles intercepted several Bucknell passes and won most 50/50 balls. In spite of its strong start, AU did not get a shot on goal until the 46th minute.
With time about to expire in the first half, Szatkowski recorded the game’s first shot on goal and put her team on the board, giving the Bison a 1-0 lead. Szatkowski shot the ball low inside the box and past Belanger to score the first goal of the game.
The pace of the game grew quicker in the second half, and possession changed frequently. Bucknell prevented AU from creating scoring opportunities, and the Bison defensive efforts helped break up the AU attacks. The Bison limited the Eagles to four second-half shots. AU’s second shot on goal was in the 69th minute.
Over the course of the second half, Bucknell passed with more precision, but the Bison failed to net a second goal. Several AU players inadvertently passed to the Bison, causing turnovers and allowing Bucknell to control the ball more often. Despite their errors, the Eagles successfully defended against Bucknell’s offensive attacks, limiting them to two shots on goal over the course of the game.
In the final minute of the game, AU attempted to equalize. Donovan took a powerful shot from outside the box that went just wide of goal. The Eagles never followed up the attack, succumbing to the Bison 1-0.
“In the second half, I think the game just got away from us,” AU head coach Anabel Hering said. “We did get some great opportunities in front of goal, but we didn’t have the composure to put the ball in the net.”
AU women’s soccer takes on Navy this Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. on Reeves Field. This game is another conference matchup for the Eagles against a team currently ranked second in the Patriot League.
With three more games left in the season including Wednesday’s matchup, every game is a must-win for AU in order to remain in contention for the PL playoffs.
“I think we’re going to have to do a lot of work to get [to the PL tournament],” Hering said. “We’re going to have to get a result for every game. If we put our best foot forward and play two really good halves, we’ll get a good result and make it to the tournament.”