What better way to boost a team’s confidence after losing to conference rivals Furman than to beat another rival: Eastern State Tennessee University. UNCG’s women’s soccer team arrived on the field prepared to redeem themselves from last weekend’s conference loss. The first half fell flat for the Spartans, as they created few scoring opportunities against ETSU. While these opportunities came sparingly, the Spartans did show they could be dangerous in certain spots on the pitch. They were the most dangerous on set pieces where the ball was stopped and they were allowed to set up into a certain formations. To counter the Spartans attack, the Buccaneers used quick starts after fouls to disrupt normal playing for the Spartans. While the Blue & Gold would be running back to their positions, ETSU would already have the ball moving. Despite their best attempts, the Spartans’ backline held strong.
Finally, in the 37th minute of the half, sophomore forward Cienna Rideout sent a cross into the box, where junior midfielder Heida Ragney Vidarsdottir’s kick found the back of the net for a 1-0 score in favor of the hometown Spartans.
One of the biggest obstacles that UNCG has faced this year is two ACL injuries with key players, Caylin Prillaman and Gabbi Charles. Caylin Prillaman, SoCon Freshman of the Year 2015, has been a constant steady rock for the forwards. Her style allowing her to make big plays for her team and creating opportunities for her teammates on the top. She has easily become a natural leader on the field. Gabbi Charles showing incredible potential at the beginning of her career and has capitalized on her talent throughout her time on the team. With both Prillaman and Charles out with potentially season ending injuries, the team has obviously been shaken a bit.
Luckily sophomore defenders Marissa Ferrantino and Emily Stump have stepped up big time to take leadership in the back during games. While it could’ve been easy for the team to consider themselves “down and out,” Ferrantino and Stump dug their heels into the ground and have made big plays for the team. At the top, Prillaman can rest easy knowing that sophomore Cienna Rideout and freshman Qui Qui Hita are working hard. Both Rideout and Hita have been phenomenal this season, Rideout recording both a goal and assist during the game, and Hita creating disruptions at the top allowing for opportunities to open.
The second half of the match held more excitement for the Spartans. The team held more possession, working to keep their 1-0 lead over ETSU. UNCG is noticeably very good at possession play, making small passes to run ETSU around the field. As their confidence grew with each pass, senior defender Regan Lehman passed a through ball to Rideout. Rideout’s shot was first blocked, but Rideout, known to follow all shots, was there when the ball bounced out of the goalkeeper’s hands and banged the ball in. The goal drilled a nail into ETSU’s coffin and solidified UNCG’s confidence throughout the rest of the game. The rest of the second half consisted of more possession play by the Spartans.
UNCG does fall short in one department, though. The score for this match could have easily been 5-0, but the Spartans struggle with finishing. During the match, UNCG’s forwards took a touch too many and would lose the ball in the box causing frustration for the entire team. While players on the outside would send in beautiful crosses, the ball would rarely touch a UNCG player when it was in the box. This could also be said for some of the corners taken during the game. This is a team with no lack of potential, but with their lack of finishing, their future in conference play could end sooner than it should. The Spartans played teams such as Florida State and Clemson to build their confidence in this department. Now that the games matter like they do, hopefully the Spartans will score the goals they deserve and win the games they deserve.
Now 2-1 in conference, the Spartans have put themselves in a great position for the rest of the conference play. Catch the Spartans at home against VMI on Oct. 15 at 2.pm.