Goal in final minutes sends women’s soccer past Lafayette
For the third game in a row and the fourth time in six games, the AU women’s soccer team battled into overtime in another tightly-contested matchup. But, for the first time this season, the Eagles emerged victorious against a conference opponent, squeaking out a 2-1 win over Lafayette after a winning goal from senior forward Kelly Donovan shortly before time ran out.
With just over a minute remaining in the second overtime, Donovan received the ball on the left wing from junior midfielder Marley Jennings, maneuvered her way around her defender and chipped the ball over the onrushing Lafayette goalkeeper from just inside the box. Donovan said the goal stunned her because she had never accomplished something quite like her game winner on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a fantastic feeling, it’s literally unreal,” Donovan said. “I just feel like I’m untouchable right now, and it’s awesome.”
After a scoreless first half with scarce offensive chances, AU freshman midfielder JoJo Miller put the Eagles (4-7-1, 1-2-1 PL) on the scoresheet first. Miller tapped in a loose ball from close range in the 58th minute, after a goalmouth scramble involving multiple collisions and an assist from Jennings. However, the team faltered later in the second half when the Leopards (5-4-1, 0-3-1 PL) pressed hard to tie the game and pressured the Eagles’ defense. Lafayette finally found the back of the net in the 87th minute when freshman midfielder Annika Sheehan equalized on a low cross from junior forward Kaelin King.
AU senior goalkeeper Courtney Bembenek came up with several key saves throughout the game that ultimately limited Lafayette to just the one goal on 15 shots. Her saves included a sprawling, airborne save in the first half, a diving save on a low, long range shot to her right toward the end of the second half and a nearly identical leaping save early in the second overtime. The Leopards also hit the crossbar from distance in the 75th minute, sending the ball just wide of the net.
AU head coach Anabel Hering praised her goalkeeper afterward for providing the team the support it needed in order to be in a position to win.
“They could’ve won the game in overtime and in regulation,” Hering said. “I think every save she made gave us a little more confidence and made it real that they were getting shots on goal and looked dangerous at times. She definitely kept us in and had a great game.”
Donovan also said the game brought relief and confidence to her teammates, as they broke a short losing streak and earn their first overtime win since 2010.
“It’s going to speak wonders going forward, it gives us a lot of confidence which is obviously a very big positive in the PL [Patriot League] since every game is such a fight,” Donovan said. “And especially coming off a couple road games, to get one at home is just amazing. But now we have another tough one on the road coming up with a lot confidence and a lot of momentum going into it.”
The Eagles hit the road once again for their next couple games, and they play at Army on Saturday and at the University of Pennsylvania next Tuesday. Donovan and Hering both expressed optimism about the team’s chances in the next couple games because of the result on Sunday afternoon, but they both acknowledge that faults need to be addressed in the next week of practices.
“There were some players that showed up today and some that didn’t, and I felt like the ones that did tried to kind of pull the others’ weight,” Hering said. “Even though we got the win, I feel we could’ve played a lot better, releasing the ball quicker, we talked about quicker decision making, that just wasn’t fast enough. And that’s where we kind of slowed down the game a little bit which is in their favor and not ours.”