The Seton Hall women’s soccer team came out victorious, 1-0, for the first time this season as midfielder Eva Gonzalez converted a second-half penalty kick to lift the Pirates over Loyola University Maryland on Thursday night.
Through the first half of play, both sides were nearly identical in terms of shots, corners and fouls. However, the stats do not tell the story of the attack-mindedness of Seton Hall from the start. Within the opening five minutes of action, the catalyst of the eventual game-winning goal, Marissa Aniolowski, saw her chance to score wither away as she could not manage to get a clean strike on the incoming ball. Aniolowski also forced another save from the goalkeeper in the 25th minute.
Midfielder Izzy Engel also had her fair share of chances throughout the course of the half. Her first strike went right into the gloves of Loyola’s goalkeeper and the second shot, off an errant pass from Loyola, was not hit with enough power.
Seton Hall goalkeeper Anna MacLean was not challenged often by Loyola until the closing moments of the first half. One of her saves was an easily caught ball off a cross and the next save demanded a bit of courage, as two Pirate defenders collided before she ran for the ball.
Leading up to the penalty, Aniolowski played a ball forward in efforts of outpacing a Loyola defender. When the ball was recovered, the Loyola goalkeeper had a heavy first touch with her left foot and Aniolowski raced into the box to win back possession. Aniolowski’s effort forced the goalkeeper to make a penalty-causing dive for the ball. Gonzalez then calmly stepped up to the spot for her kick and aimed left. As the ball sailed into the back of the net, there was little time for the goalkeeper to react.
After the goal, Seton Hall played the rest of the game quite conservatively, as defenders remained in their half of the field, attackers dribbled to corner flags and passes were made to maintain possession.
The first goal and win of the season for the Pirates could be a good omen, as last season, contrastingly, the team went winless and suffered 12 defeats with five draws.
When asked about the overall structure of the team and its capabilities, head coach Rick Stainton believed that they could execute on his game plan going forward.
“This was a long time coming and something that we have been trying to build towards – to have a solid foundation of what our identity would be,” Stainton said. “The possession was phenomenal in the first 30 minutes. I honestly did not think [Loyola] would get a scoring chance. Once we grow into that and find our moments, I think we’ll surprise some teams, at the end of the day, with it.”
Seton Hall will look to protect its unbeaten record on Sunday afternoon, as they face-off against the Stony Brook Seawolves. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Owen T. Carroll Field.
Evando Thompson can be reached email@example.com or on Twitter @Thompsev.