Oct. 8, 2007
Greetings Cardinal Faithful!
This past week the Cardinals hit the road for two tough Big East contests against West Virginia and Pittsburgh. With so much parody this year both in the Big East and the NCAA every game has implications for post-season play, so earning valuable points on the road was crucial.
On Friday night we headed to Morgantown for a stern test against a very good West Virginia team. We knew we would have to defend well as a team and counter attack at speed to take advantage of the space created by the numbers they throw forward into the attack. In the first half we achieved our objective defensively, preventing the Mountaineers from breaking through our back line and limiting their quality scoring chances. Unfortunately our passing and movement in the attacking third was not in rhythm, and we were unable to put them under the pressure needed to generate goal scoring opportunities for ourselves. The half ended tied at zero, and while we felt we could have done better going forward, we defended well as a unit and if we continued to do that we knew we would have a chance in the second half.
The second half started in the worst possible way, with West Virginia scoring from a set piece just minutes into the half. We had hoped the halftime break would allow us to compose ourselves and generate more of an attack in the second half, but we were know down a goal and chasing the game proved to be a difficult task. We pulled together again defensively after the goal and were able to stop them from getting a second goal, but we were a step off with our attack the entire match and unable to find the tying goal. It was a difficult loss because we knew we were a better team than we showed on the day, but thankfully Sunday gave us the opportunity to prove it.
We traveled an hour and a half up the road to play Pitt on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon with the temperatures reaching into the nineties. We knew that Pitt would be a strong and physical team that would battle us for every first and second ball, and we would have to win those battles if we were going to be successful. We fought hard to win challenges, but too often we committed fouls and found ourselves having to fend off a set piece within our 18 yard box. As we have shown all season, though, we are a first and foremost a tough defensive team, and against Pitt we once again displayed our ability to frustrate opposition through pure defensive grit and determination.
In the second half we began to get ourselves going on the attacking side of the ball. Just two minutes into the half Laura Walker broke in behind the Pitt back line and it looked as though we were going to take the lead, but Laura's right footed effort did not have the pace needed to beat the diving Pitt goalkeeper. We continued to push, but as the game went on it appeared that it may be a mistake more than a brilliant effort that was going to provide the decisive goal.
With no score through regulation we headed to overtime, and it was not long into overtime before the opening came. Goalkeeper Joanna Haig intercepted a cross from the right and drove a long punt in the hopes of catching the Pitt defense off guard. The ball ended up bouncing over the Pitt center back and straight into the path of forward Shannon Smyth, who had made a well timed run in behind to get on the end of the punt. With the ball bouncing the Pitt goalkeeper decided to stay back near her line, so Smyth ran onto it and drove the ball across her body with her left foot to the lower right corner from 12 yards out to give us the victory.
The win gave us another valuable 3 points and helped propel us back to 2nd place in the Big East National Division behind only Notre Dame. We will look to continue climbing the Big East and National Rankings as we take on Rutgers live on Fox Soccer Channel at 8pm this coming Thursday at Cardinal Park. We then host a strong Seton Hall team at CP on Sunday at 1pm. Hopefully we can keep the great year going through the Big East season!
All the best!