The Dayton Flyers women’s soccer team celebrates a 2-1 win in overtime over Northern Kentucky Thursday night. Photo courtesy of Erik Schelkun, Elsestar Images.
Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor
The Flyers women’s soccer team took the field against the Northern Kentucky Norse for their home opener Thursday night, and showed resilience and grit to overcome a late 1-0 deficit, winning 2-1 on a penalty in overtime to cap off a frantic finish.
Redshirt sophomore winger Alicia Donley pushed the attack for the Flyers early, firing a shot off the crossbar in the opening minutes of the game.
Although the Flyers held most of the possession, neither team established a hold of the game or had a real chance to score.
That changed in the 38th minute, when the Flyers gave up possession in the defensive end, giving Norse junior midfielder Kayla Wypasek a one-on-one opportunity against sophomore Flyers goalkeeper Madelyn Dewey. Wypasek fired a solid shot into the top right corner of the net, and the Norse grabbed a 1-0 lead.
In the final minute of the half, Norse head coach Bob Sheehan was shown a yellow card after arguing against a foul called against his team. On the ensuing free kick, sophomore midfielder Madison Wilson’s shot was moving towards the right side of the goal, but didn’t have quite enough curve, falling behind for a goal kick.
At halftime, the Flyers had more shots, 5-3, and seemed to have more possession of the ball, but had work to do heading into the second half.
“It was a bit of a roller coaster,” Flyers head coach Eric Golz said. “I think that going down in the first half, I was disappointed, I thought that we came out pretty flat in the first half.”
In the second half, the Flyers applied more and more pressure, finally breaking through in the 82nd minute with an impressive shot by sophomore forward Itala Gemelli was fired across the face of goal from left to right, finding the top right corner.
“It felt amazing,” Gemelli said. “You could see that we were gonna get a goal because we had the energy and we had the mentality and we came out the second half, just coming out strong. You’re getting chance after chance, so we knew it was coming. It felt amazing when it finally did come.”
The pressure continued to mount, and the second half ended with a corner kick that was sent toward goal on an arching overhead kick by sophomore wide back Natalie Hegg was headed toward the top left corner, but saved at the last second by Norse senior goalkeeper Mimi Stines.
“I think our response in the second half was pretty positive and I think we pushed the tempo and had to really work to get the equalizer,” Golz said. “I was optimistic that we were going to find a winner in regulation. Again, we had some really good looks and opportunities to do that.”
In the first overtime period only two-and-a-half minutes expired before Norse freshman defender Lydia Self was called for a handball inside the penalty box. As soon as the call was made, Flyers senior wide back Lexy Kidd knew she would take the penalty kick.
“Right off the bat, the ref blows (the whistle) I’m just like, ‘This is mine,’” Kidd said. “I look at one of our players, Marlee Taylor, I’m like, I’m taking it. Most of the team knows that I love taking (penalties), I take them all the time. So I just went up there, and (the) keeper is actually one of my best friends, so it was just fun to finish on her.”
Kidd converted the penalty to the left side of the net, and the Flyers fans gave a resounding roar. Sealing a 2-1 win, the Flyers then went along the sideline of the far end of the field, high-fiving the fans who provided the noise and push the team needed throughout the night.
“(It was) great, just to get back out on Baujan today and to hear the students again,” Golz said. “I think the student support was great. I think that helps give our team energy, it helps to create an environment for us to play in and helps to create an environment for the number of recruits at the game tonight, as well, so they see that, and it’s a fun place to play. I think that having fans here, it gives our team energy, makes it a true home field advantage. Having people back, at Baujan is a magical feeling, it’s awesome.”
For the Flyers opening goalscorer Gemelli, it was also her first time experiencing a full crowd at Baujan Field.
“I’ve never really played in front of that many people, especially here,” Gemelli said. “So it was so fun, so exciting to have them cheering for you to have that energy on the sideline like it really does help, so it was really fun.”
Next up for the Flyers, they go back on the road for games against Toledo (Sunday at 1 p.m. and Kentucky (Sept. 2 at 7 p.m.)