Women’s Soccer Drops UAA Opener to High-Flying Emory Eagles
The start to the Washington University women’s soccer season was characterized by tight, low-scoring affairs. The team’s only loss going into this match was a 2-1 robbery against California Lutheran University that was decided by an 89th minute goal. Its trip to Atlanta to face conference rivals Emory, however, marked a change for the team, as the final score included a season-high in goals against and the margin of goals. Unfortunately for the Bears, however, all three goals scored in the UAA conference opener were scored by players sporting Emory’s white and yellow jerseys. The 3-0 defeat was the second loss of the team’s season, dropping its record to 4-2-5.
The two teams came into the match in completely different form: while WashU had been held to low-scoring draws in three of their last four contests and only one win, Emory headed into the UAA season red-hot. The hosts had won four games in a row by an aggregate margin of 18-3, and had scored five goals in three of those matches. Although the Bears had won their last six encounters with their conference foes, they struggled to slow Emory’s momentum.
The Bears started the game on a promising note, attacking straight from the opening kickoff, but Emory quickly asserted its control. While neither team was able to garner a shot in the first 15 minutes, Emory’s midfield began to exert its influence over the possession battle, which eventually translated into chances for the Eagles. WashU junior goalkeeper Sidney Conner, however, was up to the task, keeping Emory out through numerous crucial stops including an acrobatic diving-save to tip a long-range effort over the crossbar in the 37th minute.
As the end of the first half approached, the Bears’ defense looked like it could keep the game scoreless heading into the break. However, with just two minutes left on the clock, Emory broke the deadlock. After a cross glanced off of Conner’s outstretched arms, Emory junior Grace Reyer pounced on the rebound to tap in the game’s opening goal. Reyer’s goal proved to be the only one of the half, as Emory went into the break with a 1-0 lead.
Though the Bears were unable to create a shot throughout the opening 45 minutes, Coach Jim Conlon said after the game he wasn’t worried, citing the team’s patient tactical approach. “I don’t think our offense is predicated on shooting the ball from anywhere, we’re trying to get it into specific places” he said, noting that he drew positive from the team’s ability to “put the ball in a lot of dangerous positions” in ways that don’t necessarily stand out on the stat sheet.
Shortly after the intermission, the Eagles doubled their margin. On a move starting in its own half, Emory quickly sliced through the Bears midfield and defense, before the right back dribbled forward on an overlapping run and played the ball into the box. The cross found its way between two red-shirted defenders to Emory senior forward Kylie Hall, who redirected it past Conner, who could do nothing but watch.
WashU looked livelier in the period after the goal, as the team was able to gain a greater footing in the possession battle and register their first shots of the match. Senior Maggie Brett steered a cross from Meryl McKenna wide of the goal as she made a crashing run towards the near post in the 51st minute. 10 minutes later, Brett beat a defender on the wing and crossed it in, but Tyler Wilson’s strike from the edge of the box following a defensive clearance missed the target.
Emory delivered its final blow in the 66th minute, as senior Aubrey Blanchard headed home Emory’s sixth corner of the game to extend their lead. The three goals scored by Emory were the most the Bears have allowed all season, and Conlon praised his opponent’s ability to take advantage of their chances, stating that “Emory capitalized on the opportunities we gave them and created some of their own via their own tactical adjustments.”
The Bears fought hard during a back-and-forth final 25 minutes, but were unable to beat Emory’s staunch defense, resulting in a fourth scoreless outing of the season for the Bears. Although the Bears were unable to attain the result they wanted, Conlon was optimistic following his team’s performance. “I thought we did a lot of things really well,” he said, adding that he’s “proud of where the team is and the growth and resiliency that they continue to push through with.”
Though WashU, who won the UAA conference last year, started its title defense on a rough note, the team is looking to put this game in the back pocket and move on. This game “was only the beginning,” said freshman Marilee Karinshak, noting that the loss “is a little setback that doesn’t define the season.” Going forward, the Atlanta native added, the team will look to “lock in and ramp up the intensity” as it keeps its eyes set on retaining the UAA crown. The team is already shifting its focus to next Sunday, when a visit from Rochester will kick off a five-game home stretch and an opportunity for the Bears to right the ship in their pursuit of another championship appearance.
“We’re just happy to be home,” said Conlon, who says that fans can look forward to watching “a team that’s got a lot of pride in wearing the WashU colors and honoring the badge we wear on our chest.” The Bears’ next match is Sunday, October 9 at 1:30 PM on Francis Field.