The women’s soccer team bounced back from a slow start yesterday, eventually earning a solid non-conference win over St. Olaf (Minn.).
Juniors Lisa Marco and Rachel Nerison led the way with a pair of goals that occurred within minutes of each other in the second half. Initially, the team had trouble finding a rhythm to start the game, and struggled to get scoring chances because of it.
Coach Sean Yengo said part of the reason they struggled was because the team didn’t seem comfortable, which is crucial for their style of play.
“We play a very up-tempo style of soccer and I think they were playing rushed instead of composed,” Yengo said. “As a result, we were coughing the ball up quite a bit.”
Freshman Paige LeGate, who attempted three shots, was one of the few bright spots for the Blugolds during the first half.
In the fifth minute LeGate dribbled down the sideline and turned the corner with space in front of her. She looked up and took a shot from inside the box that sailed just past the post and the goalkeeper’s outstretched arms.
Eau Claire started five freshmen in the game, and have 12 total on the roster. Nerison, a team captain, said she was more than pleased with the play from the new players.
“This is definitely a different level of play than high school is, but they were all ready for it,” she said. “They all stepped on to the field confident. They knew what they were doing, and it showed.”
The teams went into the half still knotted in a scoreless draw.
Marco said she could clearly see a difference in how the team came out after the break.
“I think at first it was a little shaky and panicky, but we talked at halftime and I thought that really helped us,” Marco said. “The coaches calmed us down.”
The team came out much more deliberate in the second half, and seemed to have a better idea of what they wanted to do.
Just minutes in, it almost paid off after the Blugolds earned a free kick near the St. Olaf box. There was a frenzy for the ball as it rolled across the box before an Eau Claire player eventually sent it wide of the goal.
A few minutes later LeGate was taking the ball down the sideline before she was fouled. In the process, she earned another free kick for the Blugolds from about 30 yards out.
Marco stepped up to take the free kick and said she had one thing on her mind, “just put it in the back of the net.”
And that’s exactly what Marco did.
She sent the ball flying over the wall of defenders and past the goalie’s fingertips for a stunning goal from deep.
Marco said she is a “team first” player, and that she likes to pass as much as she likes to shoot. But she added that if she has a good chance, she always takes it.
Less than four minutes later, they were back at it again with the freshman LeGate starting things off. LeGate was heading down the field before cutting the ball through the St. Olaf defense and landing it on the foot of Nerison.
Nerison, a goal-scorer throughout her career, knew what to do from there.
“(Our coach) had been telling me before the game, ‘shoot near post, shoot near post, the keeper can’t get it,’” she said. “So I got there and slid it near post next to the goalie’s right hand and it went in.”
The Blugolds fought off a late St. Olaf push at the end of the game, preserving the shutout and victory in the process.
Freshman goalkeeper Joan Mattheisen made her mark in her debut with four saves and keeping the ball out of the net.
Yengo said he couldn’t have asked for much more than that.
“I thought the goalkeeping was good,” Yengo said. “Obviously we got the shutout. She’s composed, she’s very vocal back there and that really helps.”
Eau Claire is now 1-0-0 on the season and will head to St. Louis for a pair of games this weekend.
Nerison said she is looking forward to see what’s ahead for this young team, especially after they got things turned around.
“This game got me really excited for what we’ve got to come,” Nerison said. “If we can do that in one half, it just makes me so excited to see what we can do in a whole year.”