UNCP found a rhythm offensively late in the second half, scoring all three of their goals in the final frame. PN photo/Trevon Knight
A fantastic second-half save by Gina Ryan, the team’s sixth consecutive home shutout and three late goals highlighted UNCP’s seventh win of the season, a back and forth 3-0 effort over Francis Marion on Oct. 17.
Both teams struggled to generate any real offense in the first half.
The Braves rattled off 13 shots in that half but were unable to convert the chances into points, while the Patriots were stifled by the UNCP defense and limited to five shots and only one on goal as the first half closed at a 0-0 stalemate between the two Peach Belt Conference foes.
Deadlock continued into the second half, leading up to a huge, momentum-changing play for UNCP.
The Patriots had taken control and kept the ball in the Braves’ half of the field, bringing pressure and threatening to score on multiple occasions. On their best attempt, Francis Marion took a wide-open kick from the corner of the box that looked sure to be the first goal scored against the Braves this season before Ryan made a leaping, one-handed save and tipped the ball over the back of the net to stop the threat.
“When a keeper makes a save like that, you have to as a team look back there and say ‘Okay, if she’s playing like that, we have to find a way to do our job. Our job is to score...’ It’s a morale boost, it’s something that should pump you up. It puts the onus back on you,” coach Lars Andersson said of the big play.
Avoiding the potential disaster of being down 1-0, the Braves were energized by the play and seized momentum in the final 20 minutes.
Bree Mason logged two goals in roughly a two-minute span, scoring the first off an assist from Stacey Scott that Scott placed right through the hands of the Francis Marion goalkeeper for Mason to tap-in, finally breaking the tie.
“I felt like if we could get one goal, maybe there would be more to follow,” Andersson said.
Now holding a 1-0 lead, Mason knocked in a wide-open kick from the far side of the net into the opposite corner on a broken penalty kick to bring the lead to 2-0 and break the will of the opponents down the stretch.
Maya Grimes knocked in a dagger goal in the final two minutes off a lucky bounce between the keeper’s legs and pushed the score to 3-0 and cap UNCP’s third consecutive victory.
After the game, the team heaped praise on Ryan for the spectacular save that sparked the late rally for UNCP, but the ever-so focused goalkeeper treated the play like any other.
“Whenever those saves happen I just see the ball, try my best to get to it, make a save, do what I can to help our team out. When I saw it was out and not in the goal I was happy and relieved...” Ryan said.