By KEVIN BOILARD
The University of Mary Washington Women’s Soccer team advanced to 3-0 last Saturday afternoon when they defeated Catholic University 2-0.
Last weekend, the Eagles came away with two wins over Bridgewater and Averett, where both matches were decided 5-4. With 18 total goals scored in the Eagles’ first two games of the season, many expected another high-scoring affair on Saturday.
That was clearly not the case, as stellar defensive play defined the Eagles’ 2-0 victory over Catholic .
The first half was a slow, back-and-forth battle. Each team would make a run at the net only to have it sniffed out by the opposing defense. The stifling defense made each subsequent failed run a bit more harrowing, as freshman forward Jessica Bednarcik explained after the game.
“It was definitely frustrating at first,” Bednarcik said. “I kept on wanting to take the ball to the net, but it was difficult.”
As Bednarcik’s aggressive efforts on offense continued, the Eagles defense worked hard to keep the game knotted at 0-0. UMW sophomore defender Ashley Stephens gracefully swept the ball away from the Cardinals’ forwards, keeping any danger away from sophomore goalkeeper Charlotte Owens.
Both Owens and Catholic Univeristy’s freshman Lexi Halperin played a flawless first half in the net, but it would ultimately be Stephens; who stood out in the Eagles’ victory.
The sun was already beaming down on the Battlegrounds complex for the game’s 12:30 p.m. start, but things didn’t really begin to heat up until the second half.
Only minutes into the second frame, Bednarcik handled the ball and made a speedy run to the net. With a step on her defender, Bednarcik was threatening to score, but a foul inside the box slowed her down and set up a penalty kick.
“I had been wanting to take my touch to goal the whole game,” Bednarcik said. “When I finally got the chance, we got lucky and were given a P.K. opportunity.”
The penalty kick was the Eagles’ biggest scoring chance of the game, so they knew it was essential to capitalize on the opportunity. The game’s most important moment hinged on one kick from UMW freshman forward Adrian Newcomb.
Newcomb coolly stepped up to the ball and tucked it away in the bottom right corner, just out of the reach of Halperin’s diving effort to save the shot. The play put the Eagles up 1-0 with almost an entire half of soccer to go.
“Nothing really changed after the first goal,” Head Coach Corey Hewson said after the game. “Our strategy remained the same. We always know that we have to score just one more goal than our opponent.”
The Eagles may have been up by a goal, but they weren’t out of trouble yet. Catholic, who outshot the Eagles 14-5 throughout the game, had 10 shots in the second half. UMW needed a huge performance from their net-minder, and that’s exactly what they got.
Owens, who was making her first start of the season on Saturday, faced seven shots on net and saved each one of them. She appeared to be a solid fit in the net, considering the fact that the team gave up eight goals in their first two games of the season.
“Last week was opening weekend, and we were working through some injuries, especially in goal,” Hewson said after the game. “We’re looking much more solid in the backfield now, and the goalkeeper position is cleared up with Owens.”
The defense was able to hold for the entire second half despite a flourish of offense from Catholic, and Bednarcik was able to put the game out of reach with a goal in the game’s final minute. Shortly after Bednarcik’s goal, the final whistle blew, signifying an impressive shutout victory for the Eagles.
“The feeling was really incredible,” Owens said about her first collegiate shutout. “But there’s no way I could have done it without my defense.”
The Eagles rounded out the weekend with a 3-0 victory over Guilford on Sunday, bumping their overall record up to an undefeated 4-0 (0-0 CAC). The following day Bednarcik scored agan against Guilford. Freshman Michelle Gibbons and sophomore Sydney Cook also had goals in the victory.
They kept their undefeated streak alive last night when they defeated Methodist College 2-1. Gibbons and Bednarcik scored again.
The Eagles bring their undefeatd record into conference play as they take on Frostburg State University this weekend in Frostburg, Pa.