The Dayton Flyers women’s soccer team, led by junior Marlee Taylor (No. 18), celebrate a 3-1 win over the Richmond Spiders in an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal match at Baujan Field on Sunday. Photos courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.
Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor
Regardless of whether the Dayton Flyers win their next game, the Atlantic 10 women’s soccer championship game will be played at Baujan Field. But with momentum from a 3-1 win over the Richmond Spiders on Sunday, the Flyers aim to win the conference tournament on their home field.
“(I’m) excited, proud,” Flyers head coach Eric Golz said. “I think we knew tournament play, the game was gonna be tough, it was gonna be different than last weekend. It was gonna be competitive and gritty at times, and it was, and I think we had to do a better job of competing in the second half, I thought we did that. We rose to the challenge, rose to the occasion, and (earned) another opportunity to extend our season and bring the tournament home to Dayton.”
Golz said finding out about No. 1 seed VCU’s 1-0 loss to St. Joseph’s was “awesome” as it also occurred within a half hour period with the men’s 4-3 overtime win over Duquesne.
Once Sunday’s game began, the Flyers applied some early pressure, earning a corner. Although they didn’t score directly from the corner, junior winger Jessica Sheldon fired in a cross from open play into the box, and junior attacking midfielder Marlee Taylor answered with a right-footed shot into the back of the net to give the hosts a quick 1-0 lead in the sixth minute.
Taylor (No. 18) prepares to strike the ball for the opening goal during Sunday’s match.
“I’m pretty sure it started off a corner maybe and then it kind of got knocked out and Jess recovered it and crossed the ball and I was just on the back post,” Taylor said. “I think I just got it in stride. I didn’t even mean to hit it. But yeah, great ball by Jess and it was fortunate to get a goal in the first five minutes to kind of set the tone for the game.”
Richmond sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Montague made a couple of excellent saves on Flyers shots to keep the Spiders in the game. In the 25th minute, freshman forward Emma Coleman was assisted by graduate midfielder T.J. Anderson, and got past her defender and fired a low shot past Flyers sophomore goalkeeper Madelyn Dewey off the post and into the back of the net to even the score at 1-1.
The same score remained at halftime, with the Flyers holding an advantage on shots (11-6) and shots on goal (5-2).
To start the second half, Golz replaced Dewey with freshman goalkeeper Maddie Crosbie.
The game became more physical, but in the 62nd minute, junior forward Laney Huber pick-pocketed a defender, and then fired a right-footed shot into the bottom right corner with a light touch off the post to put the Flyers ahead 2-1.
25 minutes later, the Flyers put the game away when a long ball from junior center back Mackenzie Lutz fell to the feet of sophomore forward Itala Gemelli, who in acres of space evaded Montague and passed a low shot into the back of the net to give the Flyers a 3-1 lead.
Victory and defeat: Huber and Gemelli (white) embrace in excitement after the latter’s goal to seal the Flyers’ win, while the opposite emotion is displayed by the Spiders.
“I saw the open space and I knew we sort of needed to get out of our half in like the last five minutes there of the game,” Lutz said. “So I sort of just pushed it, and especially as their line was sitting a lot higher, trying to get like forward in the last few minutes. So I just pushed a ball onto the open space and Itala’s speed just helped it on (for the goal).”
Lutz also continued to be a stalwart in the Flyers’ defense, playing 90 minutes on Sunday as has often been the case this season. After the Spiders’ first goal, the Flyers held tight and kept the visitors from creating a dangerous chance.
“It’s really just a team effort and just being out there with everyone, we play just for each other with each other,’ Lutz said. “And we all just come together and just before every game we really just get pumped up and bring the energy up and we are like family so we just work really hard for each other.”
The hosts held on for the quarterfinal win, and as the highest remaining seed advanced as hosts for the semifinals and championship game, which will be held at Baujan Field Nov. 5 and 7. In the semifinal match, the Flyers will face No. 3 Saint Louis, who they lost 1-0 to on the road.
However, the Flyers have much more recent history against the Billikens, with Friday’s game being the sixth match-up in the 2021 calendar year (five losses).
“I think we’re trying to set a record in the calendar year 2021,” Golz joked. “See how many times we can play Saint Louis… But I think that we’ve grown, I think we’ve evolved and we’ve developed as a team and as individuals over the course of the past few months, but I think we know that we need to be good in possession, we know that we need to be good in transition.
“We know that we need to be good at defending the wide areas prevent them (from) corner kick opportunities and service opportunities. But at this point of the season, there’s nothing that we haven’t seen, we take some confidence in that experience. So we’re looking forward to to play the defending champion opportunity competing for a championship. We have to beat the defending champion first, and that’s the way it should be, so we’re excited.”