The scene was brilliantly set for Thursday night’s game at Baujan Field. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.
Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor
After six games without a win and several games away from Baujan Field because of poor field conditions, the Dayton Flyers women’s soccer team rebounded in a big way with a 3-0 win over La Salle on Thursday night.
The Flyers opened the game quickly, scoring when junior attacking midfielder Marlee Taylor passed the ball through to sophomore forward Itala Gemelli, who fired a right-footed shot easily into the left corner of the net in the fifth minute, giving the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. After six games with just 2 goals, assistant coach Margaret “Mags” Saurin underscored the importance of the early goal.
“(It was) very important to set the tone for the match, and also settle the nerves a little bit because we hadn’t scored in a few games. We have created a lot of opportunities over those games, but didn’t put them away so it was nice for us to do that, get that feeling back again.”
Goal-scorer Gemelli concurred.
“(Scoring early) is super important,” Gemelli said. “Scoring for us recently in the past couple of games has been hard so getting it in the first five minutes and working hard and putting our effort in the first time it’s really important and it paid off.
Laney Huber (left, No. 11) and Gemelli (No. 22) celebrate after Gemelli’s first goal to open the scoring. Both players combined to score the Flyers’ three goals, and Gemelli assisted Huber, who was fouled to set up Gemelli’s second goal.
Although the Flyers finished the first half with 5 shots on goal to the Explorers’ 1, the final action of the first half came when Flyers sophomore wide midfielder Madison Wilson was fouled aggressively by Explorers junior defender Naya Vialva. Wilson went down to the ground hard, and while Vialva was given a red card for the foul, Flyers head coach Eric Golz was also shown red after running down past the Explorers’ bench towards Wilson.
A few minutes remained after the red cards, but Saurin, who helped lead the team with fellow assistant coach Dean Ward after Golz was sent off, said the coaches gave the players a few minutes at halftime in the locker room “to themselves” because emotions were high, as was concern for Wilson.
“(We) didn’t really have a whole lot of time to kind of refocus because once everything happened we had to get in, finish out that half,” Saurin said. “So we got a few minutes thankfully… at halftime, just to gain our composure a little bit. We play better when we’re when we’re calm and have clear heads and so we just had a few minutes during halftime just to just to do that.”
Down to 10 players, Saurin said the Explorers were still well-prepared to battle the Flyers, holding the Flyers scoreless for the next 40 minutes.
“For them like playing a man down they came out with a very good game plan to really try to stretch us by playing those longer balls into our backline and trying to feed off of mistakes that we would make. And they were quite aggressive and risky.”
But in the 84th minute, Gemelli sent a low cross into the box, which was right-footed by junior forward Laney Huber into the back of the net to push the Flyers’ lead to 2-0.
Huber celebrates after scoring the Flyers’ second goal. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta.
“Playing with Itala up top, we like to work off each other and she had a great ball in, it was perfectly placed and it was a great feeling to score, so really happy to get the result,” Huber said.
Huber was then fouled after finding a lot of open space down the right flank, and was fouled in the penalty box to set up an opportunity for Gemelli, who converted the penalty with a soft pass into the bottom left corner for 3-0.
“(La Salle) came out with a good game plan, the second half and really took it to us,” Saurin said. “So it took a lot of focus for 90 minutes took a lot of focus from our women to get that and obviously we were locked in because we scored those two late goals. It’s easy to be one-nil up in a tight game, make a mistake and it could easily go one-one, but credit to our girls and we defended well, we had a clean sheet.”
Gemelli converted a penalty for her second goal of the night. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta.
For Saurin and the players, being back at Baujan Field again was important to the team’s success Thursday night after a tough run where they only played one true home game.
“We’ve come through like a lot of adversity over the last few weeks with having to deal with different kinds of situations and I think it just makes us stronger, makes us resilient,” Saurin said. “Our schedule was quite tough leading up to this game in preparation for it, so I’m happy that the lessons that we learned, we’re able to apply to this game to get the three points today.
“The athletics department, and our grounds crew, our facilities people, they put in some crazy man hours to get this field ready for us today. So we’re, first and foremost, really appreciative of the efforts that everybody made to make this possible for us. Having these back to back home games, you want to take advantage of those home games and having two of them, where we can gain some momentum going into like an away game on Thursday, momentum is obviously really important, so we feel like playing those two games will allow us to have that as we head into play St. Joeseph’s (away) on Thursday. Great to be on Baujan, happy to be here with the friends and reunited with our field after so long.”
“We always play better on Baujan, it’s a comfortable feeling because you’re home,” Gemelli said. “So I think it was a huge win today just to be able to play on Baujan, play at home, have the energy of the fans, have the energy of our parents, and it felt comfortable and it was fun.”
Next up, the Flyers host Davidson on Sunday at noon before traveling to St. Joseph’s on Thursday at 7 p.m.