LEXINGTON, VA – The Saint Peter's University women's soccer team scored a late goal at the 77' mark to cut the deficit to 2-1 before falling, 3-1, to VMI in the season opener on Saturday afternoon.
"We controlled the game in the opening 20 minutes and it was an even contest throughout," explained head coach Melissa Sherwood. "Two lapses in concentration down the left side led to their two goals. Then we had a sloppy start to the second half but we dominated in spells and pushed to respond. VMI's goalkeeper made three terrific saves, particularly one from a long-range effort from Aleena Cruz. As we pushed for an equalizer we left ourselves open and VMI capitalized on a breakaway to score the final goal of the game."
The first 30 minutes of the contest was even as neither team would find the back of the net. Despite the slow start, VMI did hold a 6-1 shot edge through the 30 minutes. After a defensive breakdown by the Peacocks, the Keydets took advantage taking a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute, when a cross from Juliet Esnardo to Amber Risheg found back of the net just pass a diving Taylor McLean. Minutes later at the 36' mark, Keniya Lee found Onika Hammond for a goal, giving VMI a 2-0 lead in a two-minute stretch.
Saint Peter's first shot on goal in the half came with 90 seconds remaining, by Barbara Paiva, but it was saved by VMI keeper, Ceci Keppeler. In the first 45 minutes, VMI outshot Saint Peter's 10-2, had a 5-1 shots on goal edge, and a 2-0 corner kick advantage.
The second half started off sloppy for the Peacocks as VMI grabbed two quick shots in the box coming within the first 30 seconds of the half. A headed team save after McLean hit the turf, saved the goal attempt by VMI and the rebound put back shot attempt went wide of the goal, keeping the Peacock deficit at two.
The best offensive opportunity for the Peacocks to that point came at 55' when Paiva got passed both defenders leading to a one-on-one with Keppeler, who made an impressive sliding kick save on the shot attempt, keeping the shutout in tack. The Peacocks picked up their offensive attack, notching three more shots with one on goal by the 60' mark of the match. Another late opportunity came for the Peacocks at the 74' mark, when Cruz took a long shot that was punched away by a jumping Keppeler.
Saint Peter's managed to finally find the back of the net at 77', when what was originally scored as a goal by Carlee Gonzalez from Victoria Babcock found the left side of the goal, cutting deficit to 2-1. After the ESPN3 cameras ran several replays of the tally, the shot was seen being deflected off of a VMI defender, officially scoring it as an own goal. The goal kept the Peacocks surging, as Gonzalez took a shot attempt at 78' trying to score the equalizer, but the kick was blocked by a VMI defender. VMI sealed the victory in the 89' after a breakaway by Emma Quirk allowed her to sneak behind McLean to score the game's final goal and stop the Peacocks rally.
"Overall I am pleased with the performance at this stage of the season," added Sherwood. "It was an evenly matched game. VMI took their chances, but unfortunately for us their goalkeeper stepped up to prevent ours. We take the positives into Delaware State on Wednesday."
McLean, who led the conference in saves (120) and saves per game (8.00) last season, picked right back up where she left off, notching seven saves in the defeat. The Peacocks were outshot by the Keydets, 20-8, and had an 11-5 shots on goal disadvantage in the setback.
The Peacocks falls to 0-1 on the young season. The squad returns to Jersey City for the home opener on Wednesday, August 30 at Caven Point Turf Field against Delaware State. First kick is set for 3:00p.m.