Junior Gina Ryan goes up for a deflection on an attempt on goal by the visiting Night Hawks in the Braves’ 1-0 win. PN photo/Trevon Knight
The UNC Pembroke women’s soccer team advanced in the Peach Belt Conference tournament with a 1-0 first-round win over the North Georgia Nighthawks at Lumbee River EMC Stadium on Oct. 30.
The two teams had just played against each other one week earlier on the same field in the regular season on Oct. 23. The Braves won that matchup 1-0 in overtime over the then-ranked #25 Nighthawks.
The win from the week before did nothing to make the rematch any easier for the Braves. They were outshot in the first half 10-6. The Nighthawks put up 5 corner kicks compared to zero for UNCP in the first frame.
“They came in with a great gameplan. They set up very differently than they did a week ago. In the first half, I thought they were the better team,” head coach Lars Andersson said.
Junior goalkeeper Gina Ryan logged a season-high of 11 saves in the win and added her eight shutout of the season to her growing career resume.
Eight of Ryan’s saves came in the first half as the Braves were struggling, which left North Georgia with no points to show for confusing the Braves early in the match.
“[With Gina] I thought it was a lot closer to being 2-0 than 1-1,” Andersson said of his confidence in the standout goalkeeper.
With a clean sheet heading into the second half, the Braves adjusted and broke the 0-0 tie on a corner kick from Christine Rolfes, who set up Stacey Scott perfectly for a header that drilled into the back of the net to score the lone goal of the game. The well-executed setpiece has been one of UNCP’s most reliable ways to score all season. The team is relentless when scrambling to put the ball in and defeated North Georgia the same way in the previous matchup.
“On setpieces, you’ve gotta be committed to believing that you’re gonna put that ball in the back of the net. I joke sometimes and say ‘girls if you have to, pick it up and throw it in the back of the net,’” Andersson said.
After scoring the goal, the team played tough defensively and stopped any chance of tying up the game. UNCP grinded out a tough 1-0 victory to move on to the second round of the conference tournament.