UD sophomore midfielder Yaiza Navarro Leon (#30, ball at feet) provided the assist for the Flyers’ first goal of the team’s 2-0 win. Photo courtesy of Christian Cubacub, Flyer News.
In their senior day match Saturday against Duquesne, the Dayton Flyers women’s soccer team got two second-half goals from freshmen and won 2-0 at Baujan Field.
“It’s massive (to win for our seniors),” head coach Eric Golz said. “You know, it’s a great way to just honor the legacy that our current seniors have created. I think they, as a class, have done a really tremendous job of helping us build the culture of our program.”
The two teams met earlier in the season at Rooney Field in Pittsburg, Penn., on March 14, in a game that ended a 1-1 draw after two overtimes.
Before Saturday’s game, seniors Carly Becker, Morgan Henderson, Olivia Brown, Kara Camarco and Emma Thomas (l to r) were recognized with framed jerseys and a message from their families. Duquesne seniors were also acknowledged. Photo courtesy of Christian Cubacub, Flyer News.
Within two minutes, Dayton had the best chance of the first half. Thomas set up a one-on-one shot with the goalkeeper for freshman forward Itala Gemelli, who fired a hard shot right at the Duquesne goalkeeper.
The ball was knocked away, and the Flyers couldn’t get a goal from this chance, or any others in the first half.
The next chance for either team came in the 18th minute. The Dukes had a free kick a few yards outside the box, but a solid shot by the Dukes made a thud into the Flyers wall.
Another free kick opportunity for Duquesne came seven minutes later, when sophomore defender Audrey Steiert was shown a yellow card for a foul just outside the penalty arc of the box. This shot went wide left of the net, and the game remained scoreless.
In the 35th minute, Gemelli was shown a yellow card in the Duquesne attacking half. The long cross was sent over and past everyone, but possession was taken by Dayton before the ball crossed the end line.
The Flyers quickly took the ball to the opposite end of the field, setting up a chance in the middle of the field.
A low, precise shot by sophomore midfielder Yaiza Navarro Leon forced the Duquesne goalkeeper to fully extend to push the ball behind the end line for a Dayton corner. Once again the corner amounted to nothing, and three minutes later Flyers freshman midfielder Mia Perri picked up the team’s third yellow of the first half for a foul around the center line.
In the 42nd minute, Dayton was fouled and given a free kick inside the penalty arc. This time, sophomore midfielder Alexis Goins stepped up to the ball, and fired a shot into the feet of the Duquesne wall.
That would be the final good chance of the first half for either team, and the game remained at 0-0. The Flyers owned noticeably more possession, along with shots (6-3) and shots on goal (3-2), but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Several crosses from Steiert or sophomore winger Jessica Sheldon were consistently sent into the box, but rarely found another Flyer to head the ball into the back of the net.
“That was a conversation point at halftime,” Golz said. “I agree, I don’t think we were doing a great job of finishing some pretty good service in some pretty dangerous areas of the field. I think that we were more committed, to fill in some different areas within the penalty box, and more hungry off of crosses as well, not just the first layer, but in the second and third layers as well. So I thought that we did a much, much better job executing that (in the) second half.”
Gemelli added she thought the Flyers cleaned up their play, and credited Camarco and Sheldon for great crosses.
“We just had more energy, we were all getting onto the ball, and we had really close chances, so we were bound to get one,” Gemelli said.
In the second half, chances increased for the Flyers. A string of several shots on goal in two minutes between the 58th and 59th minute gave the Flyers something to build off of.
Finally, just as the game reached the hour mark, Navarro Leon sent a weighted pass through the defense. The through ball found Gemelli, who slid and made contact with the ball, sending it into the bottom left corner to give the Flyers the opening goal of the game.
“There were gaps in between the defenders, and Ya-Ya (Navarro Leon) had the ball and she was dribbling and she hit the ball perfectly in the gap and I ran onto it and got a right-footed shot to the opposite post,” Gemelli said.
Barely holding onto a 1-0 lead, just a couple of minutes later, the Flyers almost gave up a goal on the other end. Duquesne had a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but the first shot hit the crossbar. The next shot was fired into the torso of a Flyer defender who arrived just in time, and the third was lofted and caught by sophomore goalkeeper Madelyn Dewey.
In the 71st minute, a pass from Goins found freshman midfielder Diana Benigno just outside the near right corner of the penalty box. Benigno then lofted what looked like a cross, but the cross became a stunning shot and the goalkeeper could only get a fingertip on it as the shot found the back of the net to give the Flyers a comfortable 2-0 lead.
“It was 1-0, probably one of the dangerous scores in soccer,” Benigno said. “So I knew that we needed another one. I was outside and I had plenty of space and just one defender to beat, so I just sent one to the far post and the goalie hit it in.”
The final 19 minutes were seen out, and the Flyers came away with a comfortable 2-0 win over Duquesne on Senior Day. Keeping possession and limiting the Dukes’ time with the ball were a big part of the Flyers’ defensive success.
“Part of our DNA is we want to be able to dictate, defensively, what the other team can or can’t do,” Golz said. “I think the women did a tremendous job of that today. I think that we had the ball for large segments, but when we lost it, we transitioned very quickly to either get immediate pressure on it or to get in the right spaces to prevent counter-attacks from them going forward. So I think the transition was pretty good for us tonight.”
The Flyers now improve to 5-3-1 on the season, and will host St. Bonaventure next Thursday at 7 p.m.
Golz said the team has done a “really great job” of continuing to grow and evolve each week as the season progresses.
“I think we’ve been able to add some different layers with each week of the season, and they’ve done a tremendous job of remembering the best and putting the rest aside to learn and grow, come out fresh in the weekend. And I think today was another good example, but we were much better today than we were the first time we played Duquesne. Just the growth in that is fun to watch. It’s fun to be a part of, and the players have done a tremendous job of just going out and executing and continuing to learn.”