In the last week, the women’s soccer team played three fantastic matches and won its first two home contests of the season. Last Thursday, the highly anticipated nationally televised match between Iona and Colgate on the Fox Soccer Channel attracted an estimated 1,000 people who came to support the Raiders. The fans created a fantastic atmosphere and obviously increased the players’ morale. Colgate controlled the ball for most of the first 15 minutes, but couldn’t convert on any opportunities. Meanwhile, Iona had trouble organizing their attacks. Although the fans could see that Colgate was the better squad, the game got tenser with each passing minute and each missed opportunity. The 26th minute brought relief when sophomore Jessica Bitsack received a great pass down the wing and passed a nice ball to senior Josie Johnson, who had no trouble converting a header into a 1-0 Raider lead. The contest remained tied for the remainder of the half with both teams trying to control the midfield.
The second half was all Colgate. A row of three corner kicks was finished by a nice shot by senior Franny Iacuzzi, who took advantage of a header pass by first-year Beth Clifford in the 52nd minute. Nine minutes before the final whistle, Johnson scored her second goal of the match by making the most of another Clifford assist. The final score was 3-0, although the Raiders could have won by an even greater margin. Head Coach Kathy Brawn beamed when she spoke of the game.
“I was very pleased with the way we played,” she said. “The players did a great job of handling the extra conditions such as the game being televised.”
Colgate’s next game, which was played at Northwestern, was one of the tightest games the Raiders have played this season. It was mainly a physical battle at the beginning as both squads committed more than a dozen fouls while struggling to gain ball possession. Colgate took the lead in the 43rd minute when senior Brittany Pearsall, primarily a goalkeeper, went into play and scored her first goal of the season by putting a deflected ball into the net. Northwestern pushed forward in the second half because it had the wind at its back, but it could not convert any early opportunities. It looked like the Raiders would stretch their win streak to three, but Katherine Sampson scored at the 89:59 mark, forcing overtime with just one second left in regulation. The Wildcats were on the run in the 20 extra minutes, but could not convert any of their four shots, thus ending the game in a tie.
Brawn was rather disappointed with the match’s outcome.
“You have to play until the final whistle,” she said.
However, having in mind that a couple of the players could not play and a few others had the flu, she was satisfied with the team’s performance.
“We played well,” she added. “The way people stepped up in overtime was impressive.”
On Tuesday night, Colgate began a three-match homestand. Marist proved to be a very tough opponent as play was balanced for the first thirty minutes with both teams getting good opportunities and trying to control midfield. In the 30th minute, however, the game changed as Iacuzzi scored her sixth goal of the season after putting a deflected ball into the open net. Eight minutes later, Colgate got its second tally when sophomore Jillian Arnault made a wonderful move in Marist’s penalty area and shot the ball past Marist goalie Allison Lane. A few minutes later, senior goalkeeper Carly Sousa made a remarkable stop on a one-on-one opportunity to keep the Colgate lead at two.
In the second half it seemed that lady luck once again was not on the Raiders’ side. Marist managed to get a quick goal in the 57th minute when a Colgate defender put the ball into her own net while trying to clear it. Marist was in control after that point, as the Raiders were waiting for their chances on counter attacks. Raider Nation’s heart stopped several times as Marist took several hard shots, one of them even hitting the post, but the Raiders held on for the win.
Colgate plays Vermont and Syracuse at home on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
“They are doing well,” Brawn said about Colgate’s upcoming opponents. “We’ve played Vermont almost every year for the last 25 years, while Syracuse is a big regional rival.”