By KEVIN BOILARD
With her team down 2-0 in overtime penalty kicks, University of Mary Washington sophomore goalkeeper Charlotte Owens needed to provide a spark. Ten kicks and three breathtaking saves later, Owens was engulfed by her teammates in a celebratory dog pile.
UMW’s Capital Athletic Conference tournament match-up with St. Mary’s College of Maryland on Saturday, Oct. 27, took seven rounds of penalty kicks (PKs) to determine a victor. The Eagles eventually came out on top, 1-1 (3-2 in PKs), advancing to the CAC semifinal round versus Salisbury.
The Eagles, who had shut out St. Mary’s in their regular season match-up, saw a slightly different Seahawks team during postseason play. St. Mary’s came out firing, controlling the ball on their offensive end for much of the first half.
“They made some slight adjustments in the midfield from the last time we saw them,” head coach Corey Hewson said after the game. “Once again, we came out flat and had to build up our fight.”
The slow start proved to be costly for the Eagles, as St. Mary’s took the lead early in the first half. In the game’s 18th minute, Seahawks midfielder Liz Mosher was able to create a dangerous one-on-one opportunity with Eagle’s sophomore defender Jenny Mayo. With Mayo feverishly backpedaling, Mosher connected with her teammate, forward Tori Eskay, who was cutting toward the net. The pass landed right on her foot, and Eskay easily tucked the ball away in the bottom left corner.
The Eagles did not have much luck the rest of the first half. Freshman forward Jessica Bednarcik had a shot bounce off a St. Mary’s player and the goalpost before it was redirected out of bounds, and junior midfielder Tina Rader had a promising strike squelched by Seahawk’s goalkeeper Kelsey Wirtz’s outstretched fist.
Down by a goal at the half, the Eagles knew they had to find a way to score in the second half if they did not want their 13-win season to end prematurely.
“Sometimes you have to battle,” Hewson said. “You have to get knocked down flat on your face in order to see how you’ll get back up again.”
Hewson’s Eagles got back up, but not right away. They chipped away at the Seahawk’s defense, hoping that it would eventually allow a chance to tie the game up at one.
St. Mary’s defense was staunch, though, and the Eagles’ frustration began to show on the field. Mayo, sophomore midfielder Enisa Turko and freshman midfielder Adrian Newcomb were each given yellow cards, and the team collected eight fouls in the second frame alone.
However, Mary Washington never completely lost its composure, and with just under a minute to play, the Eagles were awarded a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box. With one last chance to send the game into overtime, senior defender and team captain Emmalee Denkler stepped up to the ball and eyed down her shot.
“Normally, from that distance, coach [Hewson] would want me to shoot,” Denkler said. “But with all the people in front of the net, I thought it would be tough to go low. So instead, I put it up on the back post, and , luckily, it was cleared out to Mayo.”
Mayo fired the ball back into the scrum of players crashing the front of the net. A moment later, the ball squirted into the back of the goal, and the Eagles were given new life.
Neither team was able to score in either of the two 10-minute overtime periods, which forced the game to be decided by penalty kicks. The Seahawks took a particularly defensive approach during overtime, presumably because they felt that their goalkeeper would outperform Owens in a PK situation. Owens, on the other hand, was brimming with confidence.
“When it comes to PKs, you’re either going to do it or not do it,” Owens explained after the game. “We had been there before, and I wasn’t worried.”
St. Mary’s capitalized on its first two kicks, setting the Eagles back, 2-0, early. The Eagles rallied, however, with successful attempts from sophomore defender Jenna Abraham, forward Kelsey Carter and freshman midfielder Lizzie Weast.
With her team up 3-2, Owens made one final save to seal the victory for UMW.
The Eagles will travel to Salisbury today for a chance to move on to the CAC finals.