Women’s soccer ends season in 2OT draw against Navy
Eagles pick up a point and play a complete game effort on Friday
In Friday's matchup against Navy (3-4-1), American University women’s soccer (0-4-1) held strong in a hard-fought 1-1 double-overtime draw. Both of the game’s goals came early in the first half, leaving each team searching for the game-winning goal and needing extra time to continue the battle.
The effort head coach Marsha Harper saw from her team was a culmination of the year’s efforts and a look at what’s to come in the future, she said.
“I was very proud of our team and how we came out and played a complete game, defensively and offensively,” Harper said. “The girls were tuned in mentally on a different level. It was exciting to finally see the girls put together everything that we had been talking about. … We made a statement tonight to the rest of the league that this was just a sampling of what we have to offer."
Just 26 seconds into the match, Navy found the back of the net with a goal coming off the foot of Victoria Tran from the assisting pass of teammate Chloe Dawson. The Midshipmen’s early lead served as a wakeup call for AU and sparked an offensive rush down the field for the Eagles.
After numerous close chances, AU got on the board with its first goal of the season in the 16th minute. An arching pass from junior Emily Smith found junior Olivia Mahony as she outran the last Navy defender and slotted the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal. It tied up the game, broke AU’s offensive drought and gave them a reason to celebrate.
In the second half, Navy turned up the offensive vigor and tallied 10 shots in the period, compared to AU’s one. The Eagles were on defense for a large part of the half and successfully kept the game tied, stopping the opposing chances. Of the eight shots stopped by senior goalie Ryleigh Brown, five came in the second half.
An important sequence in the 56th minute saw the AU backline, led by senior Asia Horne, work as a unit and stop two consecutive Navy shots inside the 18-yard box. The following third shot sailed over the Eagles net and gave them a chance to reset after the string of potentially dangerous chances.
With time winding down in regulation, the Midshipmen kept play in the AU zone and had everything but the finish as they tried to find the game-winning goal. The ensuing overtime periods saw clutch saves from both Brown and Navy goalie Mattie Gallagher, and the offensive pressure mounted as each scoreless minute ticked on. Neither team was able to connect for the win, ending this game in the 1-1 deadlock after 110 minutes of play.
Though Harper was happy with the team’s progress, the Eagles will have to wait until next season to showcase their growth after missing the four-team Patriot League tournament.
The end of the season also marked the end of several college careers. Brown wrapped up her AU career in goal by cementing her place in the University’s history books. After finishing her 40th game in an AU jersey, she moved into fifth all-time in minutes played as a goalie (3,364) and fifth all-time for saves made (197).
"That's an absolute honor,” Brown said. “Some of the goalkeepers in that stat book are incredible players and being a part of that is such a privilege. The fact that I was able to do it, even with losing pretty much a whole season, is really exciting and I'm just very humbled."
Though she has made her mark on the Eagles as an impactful player and vocal leader, Brown said the end of her soccer career is bittersweet.
"After doing four years at AU, I just wish I had more time,” she said. “I wish I had more time with this coaching staff. I'm super envious of the girls that do. I have so many amazing memories with this team and they're my family now. I'm so excited for them and they're going places."
That first-year coaching staff of Harper and Katie Greenberg now have a season under their belts and have revamped the women’s soccer program within the last year. Heading into the offseason, they will use the lessons of the shortened 2020-21 season as a springboard to hit the ground running next year.
“We've been able to teach the team our system and how the system can operate in different ways in different games,” Harper said. “I'm really proud of how our team evolved. We talk a lot about soccer and how we can get better as soccer players, but also as individuals. It's more than soccer for me, and the reason I got into coaching was to have our players see that lightbulb come on. I think a lot of our players have started to realize that they have really strong lightbulbs."
Women’s soccer came into the year looking to build a new blueprint for the program. That foundation focuses on attention to detail, a relentless mentality and connecting on both sides of the ball. Friday’s game against Navy was a good look at what’s to come.