The Women of Marist Soccer squared off against MAAC rival, Quinnipiac University, with the hope to secure their first conference win of the year. The squad held a tie to Iona College and a loss against Monmouth University to their name in conference play entering the contest on Wednesday night.
The match started again with Marist on the defensive, with Quinnipiac’s possession only pausing briefly for a short-lived Red Fox break away, ending in the keeper’s arms.
More Quinnipiac possession was to follow with the Bobcats using the width of the Marist defensive zone to their advantage. The Quinnipiac attack was relentless in the early telling of the match, sending crosses through the goalie box time and time again.
The Red Fox midfield found themselves playing on their heels for much of the first half, with senior defender, Abby Murphy, and redshirt sophomore midfielder, Kristen Prevosto, having their stamina tested. As much as they tried to push the ball upfield, the Bobcat defense stood strong, forcing errant passes.
With 25 minutes gone in the match, Quinnipiac had earned a free kick. Taken from the right side, the ball was sent bouncing across the box, rolling passively out of bounds. Even with the danger gone for the moment, it felt like the Bobcats were on the edge of a break through.
This breakthrough would have to wait, however, with Quinnipiac finding the back of the net, only to have the goal called back for offsides with 13 minutes left in the first half.
Marist did find some opportunities to test their forwards’ legs, however, few and far between. The Red Foxes earned a corner kick and a free kick, both amounting to nothing, but showing some offensive momentum.
As the first half was winding down, Marist seemed to gain more of a footing on offense, only to be set back by an injury to the freshman forward, Leah Barbieri, who came on for sophomore forward, Kaylin Sperley. Thankfully, Sperly re-entered the game later in the second half. Marist looked to get fresh legs on the pitch in an effort to push the pace more on offense.
At the half, the score remained 0-0. Although, it did not accurately represent the flow of the game.
The second leg of the contest began with a much more inspired Red Fox squad. The women came out of the locker room with more energy than they entered it with, earning a free kick before five minutes had passed.
“With every game, it takes a little bit to figure out what seams are going to be on and what spaces in the attacking third to exploit,” Marist Head Coach Leigh Howard said of the team’s halftime adjustments. “I think we identified those spaces at halftime and coming into the second half we did a better job of being able to find those gaps.”
The Bobcat offense wouldn’t go away, continuing to apply the pressure, and forcing goalie Natalie Kelchner to gobble up a few balls. The Bobcats outshot the Foxes 16-2, proving again to be a busy game for Kelchner.
While preforming her goalkeeping duties, Kelchner collided hard with a Bobcat forward and was knocked to the ground. The sophomore keeper was able to walk off the field. Kelchner only remained on the sidelines for a few minutes before re-entering the game, much to her teammates’ delight.
As the offenses traded chances, the Red Foxes found their opportunity. On a break away from her own defensive zone, Prevosto sent a ball forward to her teammate, junior forward Jillian Colucci.
Colucci collected the ball on the right corner of the goalie box, cut around two defenders, and sent the ball curling toward the left far post passed the outstretched hand of the Quinnipiac keeper. The shot electrified Tenney Stadium and pushed Marist in front, 1-0.
“I’m a big team player, so it doesn’t really matter who put it in the back of the net, as long as it’s in the back of the net,” said Colucci modestly of her goal. “The whole thing just felt like it was in slow motion,” she added. This was the junior’s first goal of the season, and it could not have come at a better time.
After struggling offensively in the first half, the Red Foxes found a spark and started to play with new life.
With 17 minutes left to play, the match was far from over. Quinnipiac continued to make their presence felt in the Red Fox Den, earning free kicks and working the ball into the danger areas on the pitch. The tie was almost broken after a slew of corner kicks forced Kelchner and the defense to work hard, with a ball nearly clipping the underside of the crossbar.
Just over six minutes remained, and the Bobcats sent everyone forward. Their last defenders lined up over midfield but, no matter their efforts, the Red Fox defense was ready for the challenge. The closing moments proved to be hectic as Quinnipiac got desperate for an equalizer; an equalizer that would not come.
In a game where goals were hard to come by, Marist proved to be the better team, earning the 1-0 win. The Red Foxes outplayed their opponent when it really mattered and they look forward to their next matchup against Rider University this Saturday.
Edited by Bridget Reilly