Unlike most students, who spent much of Friday inside to get away from the rain and the wind of a cool September day, the UNC-Greensboro Women’s Soccer team had different plans as it defeated Western Carolina 2-0.
Heading into the game, the day meant only one thing to the women of UNCG soccer: the beginning of the Southern Conference (SoCon) season. Despite a 2-6-2 total record, a solid performance in conference play won’t just put the team on a hot streak, it will also push them to a higher seed in the Conference and postseason tournament. Spartans Head Coach Michael Coll gave his take on the beginning of SoCon play.
“It is a brand new season,” Coll said. “This is what we are measured on every year and what will be getting us into the NCAA tournament. It makes us more focused against teams we do know, but we for sure double, even triple, our effort this time of the year.”
When it comes to the opening game for the SoCon, the Blue and Gold have held an outstanding dominance over opponents with a 20-0-2 overall record when it faces off against its first rival in conference play.
The Western Carolina Catamounts (4-3-2) arrived at the rain soaked UNCG Soccer Stadium to attempt to give the Spartans their first Conference opening loss.
In the contest, as a whole, the best word to describe the Spartans’ game plan would be “blitz.”
On the opening kick, the Spartans burst out the gate with an aggressive offensive attack, as the team’s 14 first half-shot attempts on goal illustrated this game plan.
For Western Carolina, junior goalkeeper Carly Tinstman showed why she earned a spot on the North Carolina Collegiate Sports Information Association (NCCSIA) last year. In the game, Tinstman did everything she could to do to keep the ball out the net.
Still, that did not stop Georgia Brown from scoring her first goal of the season on a 25-yard shot to the left side of the goal post 16 minutes into the first half. The end of the first half saw the Spartans with a 1-0 control over the game. Coll talked about what was discussed during halftime.
“Even though we were leading, it was probably not our best performance of the first half this year,” Coll said. “We discussed how we can be twice as good in the second half as the first half.”
The second half told a slightly different story. The Spartans’ 14 shots on goal in the first half decreased to only five, while the Catamounts’ nine shots on goal increased to 13 in the second period. However, like with the first period, only one goal was scored, and it was for the Spartans.
Freshman forward Caylin Prillaman scored a 10-yard goal off one of the seven saves by Tinstman in the 60th minute of the game.
Despite the 22 total shots by the Catamounts, only three of them required Chloe Buehler to save them. The defense of the Spartans made her job a lot easier Friday night and gave headaches to the opponents.
As the rain continued to pour on the field, the final buzzer went off, and the Spartans’ undefeated streak for in-conference opening games continued for another year.
Coll addressed the importance of the 2-0 victory.
“It is very important,” Coll said. “We only have nine Conference games, five of those at home. All wins are very tough to get in Conference play, so rather it be by shutouts or goal, you have to get wins. But winning home games are the only advantage you will have in these matches.”
Coll then talked about the effect of the watery playing field.
“It made it tough for us to have a good rhythm and have a good tempo because the ball kept skipping and taking weird bounces,” he said. “It made it not as good of a game as it could have been. Weather is the great equalizer and it definitely made our level drop.”
This past weekend marked the end of the Spartans’ five-game home stand. The team will spend the next two weeks on the road, facing off against teams in the Southern Conference. Their next home game will not be until Oct. 16, when the team hosts a Friday night match against Mercer at 7:00 p.m.