ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy women’s soccer team kept up its winning brand of soccer in the second half of the season as the Mids defeated the Lafayette Leopards, 1-0 on Wednesday night. Looking to keep its hold on first place in the Patriot League standings, the Mids (13-3-1, 6-0-1 PL) used a goal by Natalie Dzhandzhapanyan (Sr., Diamond Bar, Calif.) in the 78th minute to break the scoreless tie and lead to the eventual one-goal victory over the Leopards (3-8-2, 1-5-1 PL) at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility.
“We didn’t come out with the sense of urgency that we had been playing with recently and that effected greatly in the first half,” remarked head coach Carin Gabarra. “I feel that we found that spark and urgency after halftime. We started playing better soccer. The urgency was there to get a better result and perform better.
“They [Lafayette] did a very good job of countering in the first half so we had to adjust some of the things we did defensively to control that more effectively. We created chances and played a lot of people, who helped raise our level and got a lot of good production. In the end, we only needed one goal so we’re very happy to get a good result against a good team in Lafayette.”
The action on Wednesday opened with game play flowing from end-to-end. The team’s rotated taking shots over the first 10 minutes before the visitors seized the first high quality scoring chance with a Krista Kissell shot on goal, that forced Sydney Fortson (So., Claremont, Calif.) to dive low to her side for the save.
In the second half of the opening stanza, Navy started finding more footing in its offensive third as the Mids used creative playing-making by Megan Rogers (Sr., Orange Park, Fla.) from the wing to loop a cross into the middle of the box for a Meghan Hegarty (Sr., Richmond, Va.) header that was pushed wide. A little over a minute later off of Rogers’ corner kick, Gabby Gordon (Fr., Fairfax, Va.) controlled a loose ball in the box and turned towards goal only to have her shot blocked.
In the final five minutes of the first half, Lafayette looked to break the 0-0 tie with one last push. The Leopards came away with two shots with one on goal and a corner kick during this span. Fortson once again answered the call for Navy with her second save of the half.
Coming out of halftime with score knotted at 0-0 and with Navy holding only a two-shot advantage in total shots taken (9-7), the Mids found that next gear and starting showcasing the dominant brand of soccer that has them atop the Patriot League standings.
Within the first five minutes of play, Navy had already earned three corner kick opportunities. That pressure eventually started turning into shots as the Mids unleashed nine shots with two on goal over a 10-minute span from 50:30 through 60:30.
Looking for more productive shots, the midfield duo of Cadie Higginson (So., New Orleans, La.) and Karli Sottung (Jr., Westfield, N.J.) started asserting themselves and their skilled playmaking abilities. From give-and-go passing to crosses and side volleys, Higginson and Sottung were seemingly involved in every offensive possession.
After taking 13 shots over the opening 32 minutes of the second half, a set piece ended up becoming the game-changing play. After Lafayette fouled a Navy player in the middle third of the field, nearly 40 yards out, sophomore defender Alex Jackson (So., Centennial, Colo.) lofted with great precision a cross into the box where Dzhandzhapanyan was on the receiving end. The senior midfielder caught the cross with her head and flicked the ball on passed the outstretched arms of Lafayette’s goalie Kelly O’Brien.
That lone tally would stand up as the game-winning goal as Navy’s defense continued its strong second half of play over the final 13 minutes of regulation. Lafayette’s only credited shot in the second half was a high cross from the midfield that eventually found its way on net to force Fortson into making a save.
“We weren’t too happy with our defense’s shape in the first half,” exclaimed Gabarra. “Our urgency to defend was lacking a bit and we weren’t as tight of a unit as we would have liked. We fined tuned that in the second half and were much more effective. Our defense helped spark numerous chances on the other end through transition play.”
For the game, Navy outshot Lafayette, 26-8 with a 9-3 advantage in shots on goal. The total for second half shots was 17-1 in favor of the Mids. In terms of corner kicks, Navy took that category as well with a 10-2 margin, including a 7-1 mark in the final 45 minutes.
In goal, Fortson finished with three saves for her fifth straight solo shutout and Navy’s seventh straight as a team.
Navy will now turn its attention to a matchup with Colgate on Saturday night, Oct. 21 at 7:00 PM in Hamilton, N.Y. The contest between the Mids and Raiders will have huge playoff implications as Navy stands first in the Patriot League standings with a 6-0-1 mark (19 points), while Colgate is in third place, just two points back with a 5-0-2 mark (17 points).