Top-Ranked Women’s Soccer Open Conference Play
The women’s soccer team played its first game as the No. 1-ranked team in the country Saturday afternoon and did not falter under pressure. Led by Head Coach Sue Patberg, the Eagles defeated the University of Chicago 2-1 in their University Athletic Association (UAA) conference opener.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Patberg said. “We got off to a sloppy start because it was hard to get into a rhythm with the sloppy weather, but we were able to bounce back and finish strong.”
Even though the difference in the game was only one goal, the Eagles were able to dominate most of the game by controlling the ball for a majority of the time in their offensive zone.
The Maroons were first to get on the scoreboard early in the game, as senior forward Brigette Kragie scored in the fifth minute of play. Kragie was able to hit a shot just outside of the box after a nice pass by sophomore forward Meghan Derken.
“We can’ t continue to get off to these bad starts and give up easy goals like we did,” Patberg said. “Some of the better teams in this league will be able to take advantage of us early on and put us in a bad position.”
Emory was quick to respond as they evened up the score with a goal by sophomore forward Karina Rodriguez in the ninth minute. The play began when sophomore forward Charlotte Butker kept the ball in play along the sidelines. Butker then sent a pass across the field to junior center midfielder Kelly Costopoulos, who gave a touch pass to Rodriguez, setting up for the goal.
Emory dominated the rest of the half, not allowing Chicago to get a shot on goal while having a couple of good scoring attempts of their own. Emory would have taken the lead if it had not been for some good goalkeeping by Chicago’s goalie.
The second frame began with a number of good attempts by the Eagles. They were eventually able to connect in the 70th minute when junior midfielder Veronica Romero scored from inside the box. This gave the Eagles’ a 2-1 lead that they would not relinquish.
The play began with sophomore defender Kaelyn Lucas bringing the ball up the sideline and passing to Butker in the middle of the field. Butker saw Romero flash to the goal and gave her a beautiful lead pass to set up her game-winning goal. The goal was Romero’s third and her first game-winning goal this season.
“The goal was a true team effort,” Romero said. “Kaelyn Lucas did an excellent job of dribbling the ball into space on the left-hand side of the field. She gave a great pass to Charlotte Butker who spotted me making the run, and she played a perfect pass in between defenders that I was able to run on to. All I had to do was toe-poke the ball into the back of the net.”
Romero realizes the team cannot take their foot off the pedal and must continue to improve.
“I think we need to continue to set the tone of the game and dictating the style of play,” Romero said. “We need to keep having strong possession and finding the back of the net early. As Coach Patberg told us, we not only want to win, but we want to make a statement to the rest of the UAA.”
The team reached the No. 1 ranking after finishing last week with two wins against two undefeated teams and will likely remain in the top spot after this win. The Eagles will finish a long home stand Wednesday, as they take on non-conference opponent Agnes Scott College.
— By Brian Chavkin