UNCP women’s soccer head coach Lars Andersson understands that the first game of the season is an opportunity to identify and fix any issues still lingering from preseason play. Due to unforeseen circumstances, his team had to do so against a nationally ranked opponent.
The Braves found the crossbar multiple times but couldn’t hit the back of the net in a 1-0 loss to the No. 21 Limestone Saints on Sept. 4 at the newly renovated Lumbee River EMC Stadium.
The contest served as the season opener for UNCP after their game at Coker on Sept. 1 was rescheduled due to thunderstorms.
“We knew this was going to be a tough match,” Andersson said. “Unfortunately, we’d obviously scheduled a game prior to this match where I thought we might work out some of our last kinks.”
Those kinks came in a number of forms, the most prominent being missed opportunities. UNCP matched the Saints with 11 total shots, including a handful that narrowly missed the net.
“I want to give the keeper credit, she saved two one-on-ones,” Andersson said. “We rounded the keeper and missed a wide-open goal. We hit the crossbar twice. They hit the crossbar for us once, we hit the post once.”
“I just don’t know how much closer you can get.”
The first close call came just under seven minutes into the game when midfielder Shannon O’Neill found forward Stacey Scott near the goal. Scott got past goalkeeper Veronica Smeltzer, but her ensuing shot sailed left of the goal.
Limestone scored the game’s lone goal near the 23rd minute when Selina Boveleth claimed a rebound before firing a shot past UNCP goalkeeper Gina Ryan.
The Braves found a groove offensively in the opening minutes of the second half, tallying two shots that almost put the Braves on the scoreboard. The first was a shot from inside the box by forward Kate Weisner that hit the goalpost. The second was a similar attempt by forward Alexis Pittman that hit the crossbar.
The Saints nearly did the Braves a favor just under the 64-minute mark when a Limestone defender headed a UNCP free kick off the crossbar.
Ryan, the 2016 PBC Freshman of the Year, finished with four saves for UNCP. Smeltzer tallied three of her own for Limestone.
Weisner led the Braves four shots to go along with three for Pittman and two for Scott. Four players notched two shots for the Saints. Boveleth was the only one with both shots on goal.
“Obviously I’m partial, but I’d like to think that a draw would have been a much more fair result based on the play on the pitch,” Andersson said. “I think we’re pretty much dead even on shots. We had the better play and the better goal scoring chances, but the only stat that ultimately counts, and again I give Limestone credit, are goals scored.”