MT. PLEASANT, S.C. - The College of Charleston women's soccer team opened its Southern Conference season with a 2-1 win over Appalachian State at Patriots Point on Friday evening. The Mountaineers struck first but the Cougars quickly equalized and notched the game winner midway through the second half.
The match was the SoCon opener for both squads which entered the match with identical records. CofC improves to 5-4-0 (1-0-0) while Appalachian State falls to 4-5-0 (1-0-0 SoCon).
"It was a great match out there," said head coach Christian Michner. "Both teams were scrapping and fighting hard for the win. I give a lot of credit to the App. State team. They are very well-coached and they certainly came out with a fight and fire in them, frankly, something we haven't seen with too many teams this year. I'm proud of our kids. I always say good teams find a way to win. Tonight, we found a way to win."
The Mountaineers struck in the 13th minute when Hannah Coad slotted Meggie Graham at the six-yard mark. Graham's first attempt struck the cross bar but she collected her own rebound and tucked the ball into the back of the net.
The Cougars had a quality chance to equalize in the 20th minute when Hope Atkinson (Rumson, N.J.) found Sarah Schaidle (Simpsonville, S.C.) streaking through the middle of the pitch. Schaidle flicked the ball over a defender's head and recollected it to have a try at net but the attempt sailed just over the bar.
Just two minutes later, CofC got through when Atkinson sent a ball into the box from the left side of the field and connected with Sarah Cardamone (Downingtown, Pa.). Cardamone's shot on goal was denied but the rebound fell to Schaidle who would not miss on another attempt.
The teams battled the remainder of the first half without any more scoring despite quality chances on both ends of the field. The period was played from end-to-end in quick swings and counter attacks.
Taylor Avery (Clifton, Va.) made two crucial saves early in the second half to keep the score temporarily locked at 1-1. The first came against Sydney Hill who had sprung free on a run towards goal but Avery charged off her line and made a sliding save to muffle the shot attempt. Moments later, Graham collected a bouncing ball with no one between her and the keeper but Avery made a world-class save by diving to her left.
The Cougars granted Avery some breathing room with a go-ahead goal in the 69th minute. After spending the majority of the early-second half minutes in their defensive third, Lindsay Frey (Cincinnati, Ohio) fed a ball to a breaking Atkinson roughly 40 yards from net. Atkinson split a pair of defenders and rocketed a shot from the top of the box and the Mountaineers' keeper Amy Kowolsky couldn't handle the blast as it bent to her left and eventually trickled into the net.
"It (game-winning goal) was amazing," said Michner. "We always talk about taking our chances from anywhere on the field. We feel like we can score goals from all over. It really started with the great combination in the midfield. Lindsay Frey had a quick combination on one side of the field to play out the other way and Hope (Atkinson) did an amazing job of getting the ball and striking it on frame. It was a great way to start the SoCon season and end the night."
The Cougars were able to thwart the Mountaineers' chances down the stretch to preserve the victory. Avery played the full 90 minutes in net and made six saves to earn her first collegiate victory.
The Cougars continue SoCon play with a match on Sunday afternoon against Western Carolina at Patriots Point. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.
"It's all about recovery. We will put this behind us. We are excited about the win but the focus now turns to Western Carolina who beat The Citadel earlier tonight. It will be a good match for us on Sunday."