By KEVIN BOILARD
The University of Mary Washington women’s soccer team rattled off five straight wins to open up the season, but the team hit a minor road bump when they tied Frostburg State University, 1-1, on Saturday.
The game featured two undefeated Capital Athletic Conference teams. It was also UMW’s first conference match-up of the season, so the tie was a slight setback as the race for postseason positioning begins.
From the opening kickoff, the game’s outlook appeared to be pretty bleak for the Eagles. Frostburg was able to dominate the time on attack, pressuring the Eagles’ defense to perform flawlessly.
The defense stepped up to the challenge. Time after time, the Eagles thwarted Frostburg’s offensive efforts as the hungry UMW forwards longingly watched on, patiently waiting for their opportunity to strike.
That opportunity wouldn’t come in the first half. Frostburg outshot Mary Washington, 16-9, in the first half, but senior defender Emmalee Denkler and sophomore defender Jenny Mayo were able to limit the Bobcats’ quality scoring chances.
The two anchored the Eagles’ defense to a first half shutout.
Even when the defense faltered, the Eagles had sophomore goalkeeper Charlotte Owens as a formidable last line of defense. Owens has emerged as a valuable component in UMW’s stifling defense as of late.
After the team gave up eight goals in the first two games of the season, Owens seems to have cleared up the Eagles’ keeper concerns, as she’s only allowed two goals in her four starts this season.
While the Eagles’ defense was doing all they could to effectively suppress Frostburg’s offensive attack, head coach Corey Hewson was faced with the challenge of figuring out how to get his team some offensive opportunities of their own. That proved to be no easy task.
“The communication just wasn’t there at first,” Hewson said after the game. “We weren’t making adjustments quick enough, but we made some changes at halftime that I think made a difference.”
The adjustments didn’t pay off immediately. The two teams played 20 more minutes of scoreless soccer before Frostburg finally broke the scoring drought.
Midway through the second half, Bobcat’s forward Erin Worthman rushed down the left sideline with the ball. Mayo mirrored Worthman perfectly at first, but after one swift move to the inside, Mayo suddenly found herself out of position and Worthman had an open shot at the net from just outside the box.
Worthman struck the ball cleanly and it sailed just beyond Owen’s diving effort to make a save and into the top right corner of the net. Worthman’s goal gave Frostburg a huge one-goal advantage in a game that featured little offensive output.
But what could have been a deflating turn of events instead served as motivation for a UMW team that refuses to lose.
“We knew it was time to get our act together,” said Denkler, who fulfills a priceless leadership role for her team. “We weren’t going to hang our heads down after just one goal.”
Clearly, Frostburg’s goal did act as an added incentive, as the Eagles were able to respond shortly thereafter.
With just under 12 minutes to play, the Eagles possessed the ball in the offensive zone. Frostburg, who was playing bunched-in defense to protect their lead, didn’t appear to be in any eminent danger to give up a score.
However, while attempting to clear, the ball somehow sprung free and just happened to land directly on the foot of Mary Washington’s leading scorer, freshman forward Jessica Bednarcik.
Bednarcik made the most of the opportunity and snuck the ball past Bobcats goalkeeper Katie Smith with her left foot. The play leveled the score at one goal apiece and essentially saved the Eagles from suffering their first loss of the season.
“The play came across the top of the box, and the ball just sort of popped out of the mess. It came right to me and I put it in the net,” said Bednarcik, who was frustrated by the tie game, but also glad that they were able to narrowly avoid a loss. “A tie is better than a loss, but definitely not as good as a win.”
With the score knotted, the game headed into overtime, but despite two extra 10-minute periods of play, a victor could not be determined. The tie brought both teams’ records down to 5-0-1 overall and 0-0-1 in conference play.