MT. PLEASANT, S.C. – The College of Charleston women’s soccer team opened the 2013 season in exciting fashion with a 2-1, double-overtime victory over Charleston Southern in front of 647 fans at Patriots Point on Friday evening.
The Cougars (1-0) maintain possession of the Silver Cup, the trophy representing the victor of the intra-city rivalry which CofC has held since 1996.
Senior Victoria Fichman (Matthews, N.C.) netted the game winner in the 102nd minute when she collected a rebound inside the six-yard box and stuffed it into the back of the net.
Freshman Danielle Mellem (San Clemente, Calif.) scored the first goal of her collegiate career to give CofC the lead late in the second half, but the Buccanneers equalized moments later to force the eventual overtime periods.
CofC dominated the possession for the vast majority of the contest and spawned a 28-10 shot advantage while placing nine of their attempts on frame. The Cougars displayed tremendous fitness with seven different players logging over 100 minutes.
“It was a wonderful match,” said head coach Christian Michner. “Both teams displayed a lot of heart and courage; we knew it was going to be a tough battle coming in here tonight against a crosstown rival.
“From the outset I think we dominated the play. We controlled the ball and won the possession battle; I think we had almost 65 percent of the 50/50 balls that were played in the first half. That’s huge for us to step out and dominate all areas of the field. To create 28 shots is impressive; we just need to put more in the back of the net. I couldn’t be happier for the result and for my team’s performance for 102 minutes.”
Senior goalkeeper Eli Sarasola (San Sebastian, Spain) made two saves in net, both of which were acrobatic maneuvers on seemingly goal-bound attempts. Her first touch on the ball came early when the Cougars turned the ball over in their defensive third but Sarasola cut out the ensuing Buccaneer run which helped CofC settle into the match.
Once they had, the Cougars seized control of the match and pushed into the offensive third for a long segment of the opening half. As part of that push, the Cougars forced three consecutive corner kicks around the 16th minute and nearly cashed in with great execution on their set pieces.
Mellem got her head to the second of the three attempts and CSU goalkeeper Dana Mclaughlin barely got an outstretched glove to the ball and deflected it over the bar. On the ensuing corner, McCallie Jones (Charlotte, N.C.) rose above the crowd to head the ball towards goal but the attempt climbed over the crossbar.
The Cougars would go on to claim the only six corner kicks drawn in the first half and ended the period with an 11-2 shot advantage. Possession shifted towards CSU late in the half, however, but the Cougars defended well and the game went into the intermission without a score.
The early moments of the second half would also favor CSU, but in the 57th minute, Mellem would make a long run through the right side of the pitch towards the base of the six-yard box. She there dropped the ball back for Nicole Koretsky (Manalapan, N.J.), but Manalapan’s shot whistled just wide as momentum shifted back to the Cougars.
The play would initiate a sequence of quality chances for CofC over the next segment of play. Moments later, Koretsky drew a foul around the top of the box which would lead into yet another corner for the Cougars. Sarah Cardamone (Downingtown, Pa.) drove the corner into the box and Claire Newman (Greensboro, N.C.) won the header, but McLaughlin punched the attempt away from her goal mouth.
In the 64th minute, Koretsky won a turnover in the attacking third and played the ball ahead to Jones through the left side of the box. Jones played the ball back to Koretsky at the top of the 18-yard box and Koretsky’s shot from there looked to break the scoreless draw, but it ricocheted off the crossbar and away from the goal mouth.
The Cougars’ elusive first goal would come to fruition roughly 10 minutes later in the 74th minute. Fichman got tangled up in a battle for possession along the right sideline and won a foul call with her strength on the ball. Kate Twohig (Charleston, S.C.) lined up to take the free kick from 32 yards away and drove a ball deep into the box where Mellem deflected it at the last moment and chested it across the goal line.
The 1-0 lead wouldn’t stand for long, however, as the CSU equalizer came in the 78th minute. The Buccaneers played a ball into the box from the right sideline and Toni Lashley headed the ball back to the top of the box where Chelsea Phillips connected on her first touch and blasted the ball into the corner of the net.
The teams swapped chances through the remainder of regulation, and Sarasola made a fully-extended save on a close-range shot by Chelsea Frankeny to keep the game tied and bring on overtime.
The first overtime period flowed from end to end with a narrow possession advantage favoring the Cougars, but would not yield a goal.
Just over a minute into the second overtime, however, Cardamone won a ball in the center third of the field and sent Jones on a run into the top-left corner of the box. Jones’s shot from 15 yards away beat a diving McLaughlin to the freshman keeper’s left-hand side, but it caromed off the post and back towards the six-yard line. Fichman was the nearest field player and beat a sprawling McLaughlin back to the ball and shepherded it into the net for the game winner.
The Cougar backline of Newman, Allison Sender (Strongsville, Ohio), Hope Walker (Charlotte, N.C.), and Ally Jordan (Alpharetta, Ga.) – all underclassmen – remained on the field for the entirety of the 100-plus minute match and was well organized and poised in order to capture the win.
“We do have some very good young players in the freshmen and sophomore classes,” said Michner, “but our upperclassmen are fantastic as well. Our young players wouldn’t be successful without the older players who have brought them along through the preseason. I think our underclassmen are able to be successful because of the standard the upperclassmen have set.”
The Cougars return to action on Sunday, Aug. 25 with a match against North Florida at 1 p.m. at Patriots Point.
“We’ll celebrate this great win, but now we look forward to North Florida,” said Michner. “The players will rest and the coaching staff will immediately start to look at video and draw up a scouting report to be ready for Sunday. In college soccer there are quick turnarounds and Sunday matches end up a lot of times being battles of attrition, so I think if we’re the fitter team we’ll be successful.”