UNCP went toe-to-toe with their toughest foe yet in their second conference match of the season but were unable to overcome a late onslaught from the Cougars. The Braves lost 4-1 at Columbus State on October 4.
The match was tightly contested early. The Cougars struck fast in the first five minutes of the game on a rebounded goal by Brooke Nail. The Braves answered back with Alexis Pittman’s third goal of the season (off an assist from Maya Grimes) which came in at 22:17. The team failed to carry the momentum into halftime however, giving up a goal to Rachael Sweigard in the 27th minute to break the tie.
The team found itself unable to generate quality shots for the rest of the match and ended the game with just four total compared to the Cougars’ 26. Columbus State took advantage of the lopsided shot totals and scored twice in the second half to put the game out of reach.
While the Braves’ defense eroded as the game went on, Coach Lars Andersson refused to single out blame.
“I’m not pinning the four goals against [goalkeeper] Gina [Ryan]. When we win, we win as a team. When we don’t perform well it’s a reflection on me directly as a coach. Gina actually made some incredible saves in that game...Show me a better Division II goalkeeper in our country than Gina because I’d like to see it.”
Andersson preached preparation ahead of the matchup against the third-ranked Columbus State team, a matchup he knew would be the Braves’ biggest test of the season so far. After the Braves’ 4-0 win over Anderson University on September 8, Lars immediately shifted his focus to the match, originally scheduled for September 15.
He took a moment to ease the tension about the difficult task ahead.
“I’m even changing my church time around, they play at 11:00. I asked my wife if I could go to 7:00 [Catholic] Mass so I could watch Columbus State play. “I’ll ask Father Peter for forgiveness later.” Andersson joked.
He then shifted gears, taking the upcoming challenge of one of the country’s best teams very seriously.
“Columbus State is one of the best teams in the country...but if you don’t want an opportunity like that, why do you play college soccer? Competitive players want to play in games like that. I look forward to it. It’ll be a tremendous challenge, but we have a full week to prepare and I know my players can’t wait to get going.” Andersson said.
That week would turn into two weeks, and eventually three, until the women’s soccer team had waited nearly a full month until October 4th to face the Cougars on the pitch due to delays caused by Hurricane Florence.
By that point, much of the intensity and preparation had fallen by the wayside for the team, without much time to rebuild it before the game.
The coach did acknowledge the difficulties the revised schedule put on his team, but despite that, Andersson minimized the excuses for his team after the tough loss.
“We’re gonna stop talking about Hurricane Florence. In the big scheme of things, this is just football. We will not bring that up, we will make no more excuses. I’m sure Columbus State was ready for us...We got our butts kicked.” Andersson said.