Sept. 24, 2007
Greetings Cardinal Faithful!
Once again it was a thrilling week for the Cards, which was to be expected with the opener to the Big East season on Friday night in Cincinnati and a home match on Sunday vs. undefeated in-state rival Kentucky on Sunday. We knew both matches would be fierce battles, and it ended up taking overtime to decide the result both nights.
On Friday night we traveled up the road to Cincinnati to take on the rival Bearcats in the opener to the Big East season. Having beaten UC last season in our Fox Soccer Channel game 4-1 we knew that they would be seeking a bit of vengeance, and they displayed their tenacity from the opening whistle. Unfortunately we started out a bit flat and had a difficult time adjusting to the turf playing surface and Cincinnati's style of play. They had a chance to take the lead early on off a corner kick when the clearance fell to the feet of a UC attacker standing at the penalty spot. She brought the ball down and struck a shot that looked to be destined for the lower right corner of the net, but our goalkeeper Joanna Haig was quick in reacting and extended across her goal to make the save.
The half ended scoreless, and we knew that we needed to find a spark coming out in the second half. Our defense continued to stymie the Cincinnati attack, and that opened up transition opportunities for our attack. The best two chances of the half fell to Kelsey Hunyadi, who twice broke in behind the UC defense. On her first opportunity the UC goalkeeper came racing out of the goal and Kelsey was able to play the ball over the goalkeeper toward the goal. But, a UC defender was able to recover in behind her goalkeeper and clear the ball out of danger. On the second opportunity Hunyadi looked to play an early shot and catch the goalkeeper unaware, but her shot scurried inches wide of the target.
A goal proved elusive for both teams throughout regulation and the first overtime, but in the second overtime we found a game-winner from Junior Shannon Smyth. Monique Gjini took a corner kick from the left side that was whipped into the six yard box. The Cincinnati goalkeeper came out to punch the ball, but she missed with her attempt and the ball deflected out toward the penalty spot. Shannon Smyth ran onto the bouncing ball and hit a screaming half-volley into the top of the net with just 3 minutes remaining in the second overtime. It was a fantastic goal, and while it was not our best performance we once again battled through and found a way to win.
We returned home to take on Kentucky on Sunday, and while you may have expected a letdown following the dramatic win over Cincinnati we came out and played some of the best soccer we have played all season. In the first 15 minutes we moved the ball around with speed and accuracy, combining passes throughout the midfield and forward lines in a way that looked effortless. We had a couple of chances to score in that opening flurry, and the best chance once again fell to Shannon Smyth. Monique Gjini sent a low driven ball in behind the Kentucky backline from 25 yards out along the right side. Smyth ran onto the ball at the back post and slid to deflect the ball on target, but the ball blasted off the Kentucky goalkeeper's head and out for a corner kick.
Unable to find a goal early on, the game seemed destined for a stalemate as both teams struggled to deal with the record high heat. Coming off the overtime game on Friday it would have been easy for our team to let fatigue set in and lead to costly mistakes, but we just kept scrapping in the hopes of eventually finding the winner. The game ended without a goal, and while we were disappointed that are chances never amounted to a goal we were happy that we continue to make it difficult for other teams to score. When your team can defend as a unit then you always have the opportunity to win games.
We are now 6-1-1 and this week we welcome Notre Dame to campus on Friday night before traveling to face DePaul on Sunday in Chicago. The heart of our Big East season is now upon us, and we will continue to work very hard in hopes of having the same success we have had thus far this season.
All the best!