Banged-Up Braves Beat Nighthawks 1-0 in Overtime
The UNCP women’s soccer team came into their matchup with the nationally ranked Nighthawks of the University of North Georgia on Oct.23 in the first of their two-game homestand at Lumbee River EMC Stadium to end the season a little nicked up and with plenty to play for.
With their regular starting Center Back Haley Stewart out of the line up with an injury, the Braves turned to their most consistent offensive weapon and leading scorer senior Stacy Scott, placing her in a position that she hadn’t played since her freshman season.
“I just think she’s one of our most versatile players. I think we can put her anywhere on the field and she’ll do wonderful there...She just was doing outstanding. Playing fantastic balls to our forwards and then when she’s up top she gets goals and gets it done,” said goalkeeper Gina Ryan.
Scott excelled in her interim role as defender and played a key role in helping the team and Ryan to their seventh straight home victory, as well as Ryan’s seventh straight home shutout. “It means a lot to us. Coming out and just showing what we’re able to do against a team battling some injuries that we had.
So we had to play a few people play out of positions and then just being able to push through and play against one of the top teams in the nation and coming out with a win is even better,” said Ryan.
Head Coach Lars Andersson was impressed with how natural and comfortable Scott
seemed in that role, as well as her willingness and selflessness in sacrificing an opportunity to add to her normal stat sheet in order to help the team in their time of need.
With this shutout, Ryan is now the program’s all time leader in clean sheets in just her junior season with 25, surpassing Braves soccer legend and UNCP Sports Hall of Fame member Class of 2009 Whitney Beverly for the record.
“It means a lot to me and also just to our team because I know during all the seasons a lot of balls get saved off a line from my back four or whoever it is. So, it’s not really just an award just for me, it's an award for the defense I’ve gotten to play with my three years so far here,” said Ryan.
Ryan continues to make the Black and Gold’s home goal posts seem like an impenetrable fortress with her amazing play. The goalkeeper protects and guards her territory as if it were Fort
Knox with he acrobatic catches and deflections when opponents try to score shots or penalty kicks.
“She has a calm about her, she’s technically sound thanks to Coach Padilla’s work with her and she is the ultimate competitor. I don’t think she’s driven by individual accolades even though she’s absolutely received her fair share, but she is a true team player and makes clutch saves. She makes game-changing saves and that’s incredible to have,” said Andersson.
The only point of the match came in the seventh minute of overtime after neither team managed to register a goal in regulation, despite both attempting more than a dozen each. What seemed to be a battle of great goal keeping, was one of the more unlikely suspects that scored the winning and only goal of the game.
Sophomore Rilee Seering found herself at the right place at the right time when she was able to get the ball off her right foot for a one-timer hit following a penalty kick from Christine Rolfes.
It was Seering’s first goal of the season after not seeing the field with much regularity, the shuffling of the line up due to injury provided her the opportunity to be in the position to make the play.
“When we go into overtime the first thing I say to the players is we are not here to come out with a tie, we are not satisfied with a tie, we are going to win this game and we expect to win this game. I think that’s a tradition that we’ve had here for a long time and I couldn’t be more proud of the players,” said Andersson.
The win marks the fifteenth home victory in the past two seasons for the Braves, who now haven’t dropped a game on their home field since the first game of the season last year when they fell to Limestone College 0-1 on Sept. 3. They did tie with Flagler 2-2 in double overtime last season at home.