Women’s soccer left scoreless in return to Reeves

Army puts up 5 goals against the Eagles on Saturday

Women’s soccer left scoreless in return to Reeves
Olivia Sekimoto (#24) in a game against Army on March 20.

American University women’s soccer (0-2) took to Reeves Field to host Army West Point (3-0) in its home-opener on Saturday afternoon. Though the sun was bright and the team was pumped to play on its own field for the first time in 514 days, the Eagles didn't capitalize on the home-field advantage in this 5-0 loss. Army came into the year ranked second in the Patriot League preseason poll and has yet to allow a goal this season. 

Army dominated the first half of this game, forcing AU to try to keep pace and connect plays beyond midfield. In the 10th minute, Army’s Kaitlin Palaian dribbled past senior goalkeeper Ryleigh Brown for the first goal of the game. There was a conversation that an Army player was offside, but after deliberation between referees, the Eagles were left in an early deficit. 

Army’s confidence only grew after the goal and had the momentum on its side, adding to its tally just five minutes later. In the 15th minute, Elise Urkov pushed ahead for a breakaway downfield and delivered a shot past Brown into the lower-left corner of AU’s net. Then in the 30th minute, Army quickly went from defense to attack with a cross pass in front of the net that went in after a small tap-in from Army’s Erynn Johns. 

After one half, Army led by three goals and AU was forced to regroup as it tried to claw back into the game. The Eagles came out in the second half looking ready to get on the offensive attack with numerous attempts down the field, but they couldn’t connect with the back of the net. After the first half, Eagles head coach Marsha Harper said the team needed to complete smart passes to keep plays going. 

“I was really proud of actually the way that we attacked, in particular one person has to be on the ball, and then we have to have at least two to three options underneath them,” Harper said. “That's great, but it's only really good if we're able to successfully connect that path, so we talk to our team a lot about high percentage passes.”

Following that message, the Eagles set out on the front foot and made vast improvements in moving the ball, speeding up the tempo of their play. Despite the switch in mentality, there was not an offensive breakthrough in the rest of the game. Senior Tori Kent and sophomore Ashley Molz had quality chances in the second half that rallied the AU bench, but both missed the target and the opportunity. 

Army tacked on two more goals in the second half. The first came in the 77th minute off the foot of Alyssa Carfagno and assisted by Johns, with the second and final goal coming in the 86th minute as Urkov and Johns connected to send a shot past Brown. Johns finished with two goals and an assist, and Urkov had a goal and two assists in Army’s 11 shots. 

“In order to win games, you have to have the ball,” Harper said. “You can either sit in and be very organized defensively, which I think Army did a good job of, being very compact defensively, or you can choose to high press. And the press is effective when everyone is doing it, and that's something that we're going to continue to work on.”

After the game, Kent reflected on the midfielders and forwards performances, who moved the ball back and forth to create dangerous plays in the final third of the field. She also spoke of her team’s positive mentality, and how the Eagles will build from this loss. 

“I think [our mentality is] a big thing that will carry us into the future,” she said. “I think there's a lot of good things that are coming for us in the future if we keep that outlook so you know, the mentality and the hard work I think is gonna bring us far.”

The Eagles will look to bounce back against Bucknell next Saturday from Reeves Field on Senior Day at 2 p.m.

cfisher@theeagleonline.com

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