Strong Defense, Kelchner Not Enough to Stop the Black Knights

Header photo by Mike Cahill

Marist women’s Soccer looked to right the ship and get back to .500 on the season tonight as they faced off against the Army Black Knights. The Red Foxes kicked off as the sunset on the West Point campus, trying to halt a two-game skid after previously falling to University of Maine and Lafayette College.

While not in conference play just yet, the goal is to get there as unscathed as possible. Heading into tonight, Marist sat at 3-4, roughly the same as the record they held last season when they lost to Army at home, 2-1. Tonight, while the score changes, the luck remains. Army wins a defensive battle, 1-0.

The game started quickly right from the opening kick, as both the Foxes and the Black Knights held the ball in the opposition’s zone. The first shot of the game came just before the ten-minute mark, with Marist’s sophomore midfielder Abby Murphy sending a shot just wide.

The Black Knights responded quickly, forcing sophomore goalie Natalie Kelchner to make a diving save on the ground to her right. The Knights continued to make their presence felt by the Red Fox defense, continuously sending balls through to their forwards throughout the entirety of the first half. 

The Red Fox defense was up to the task, however, standing strong against the Black Knight attack. Kelchner had already faced five shots just 30 minutes into the affair. “[I was] just reading the ball across the field, staying on my toes, and being ready for every shot,” said the keeper in regards to what was statistically a successful night.

“I think defensively across the board, not just the backline, we did a really good job of confronting the play and making sure we were breaking up the rhythm,” said head coach Leigh Howard. Sophomore defender Riley Abate was instrumental in the defense’s success, locking down the right-wing of the Marist defensive zone.

Five minutes before halftime, West Point earned a corner kick. The ball was sent in and fell to the foot of an Army forward, who shot the ball passed the outstretched hand of Kelchner. The shot would’ve resulted in the opening goal if it wasn’t for the head of defender Marist’s Samantha Sturno, saving the ball on the goal line.

Three minutes later, the Knights were knocking on the door once more, forcing Kelchner to make a huge save, one of her career-high 11 on the night. West Point midfielder Lauren Drysdale tried her luck from just outside the six-yard box, but to no avail. The scoreboard remained blank come the first half’s closing buzzer.

The Red Fox offense started to find their groove as the second half began, gaining more possession and earning a corner kick taken by Alexa Svensson. The ball sent in was pushed just wide of the goal, standing as the first real scoring chance for the Red Foxes.

As the half progressed, the West Point crowd grew noticeably louder, hungry for a goal. They’d get a reason to erupt, as at the 67-minute mark, the Black Knights broke through to open the scoring. Alyssa Carfagno found the back of the net with a shot from the left side of the box. After 15 shots, the women of West Point were finally able to get one past Marist’s no. 0.

The last 20 minutes of the match came with more saves by the Kelchner, who worked hard to keep the Foxes within striking distance. With goals being hard to come by, Marist would only need one chance to bring the game level. 

As the game wore down and the night got colder, the Foxes began to get desperate for a score. Marist started to press forward, but the West Point defense was ready, stomping out the Marist attack time and time again. “We faced a couple [of teams] in a row where we’ve played well defensively, and the other team has come up with a goal or two off of creating good chances… that’s what Army did today” said Howard.

Kelchner had a night to remember, making eleven saves, only letting one get by. She gave a lot of credit to her defense, saying, “Our defense does a really great job of stepping to the ball and knowing what players to cover to they make it a lot easier on me.”

The Marist women will look to halt a three-game skid this Sunday back home as they open MAAC play against the Iona Gaels.

Edited by Will Bjarnar

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