With ten minutes to go, Emma Blair stood at the ready inside the opponent’s defensive area, awaiting the whistle that would begin her penalty kick.
She took a few steps and calmly placed a shot in the bottom left corner of the net. The opposing keeper attempted to dive, but fell inches short of a successful save.
Blair, a junior midfielder for the Mount’s women’s soccer team, had just scored her second goal of the night. It was also her third on the season, and fourth for the team in 2014. It ensured a Mount victory at Waldron Family Stadium last Friday night against Howard University, the team’s first win in ten games.
“We’ve had a lot of rough times, and being 0-9 coming into this game, we could’ve given up,” said Blair in a post-game interview, “but everything’s been getting better. We put it all out there and finally got our first win.”
The Mount began its bid for the first victory of the season strong, applying heavy pressure to Howard’s defensive line early in the first half. With just over fifteen minutes elapsed, Blair stole the ball off of an errant clear by a Bison defender, and then fired a stinger from the eighteen that put her team up by one.
“[Blair’s goal] is a perfect example of someone willing herself to score,” Mount head coach Tom Gosselin commented, “it set the tone for us.”
The rest of the first half was back and forth, with no further scoring until the second half, where a corner kick from Blair was deflected off of a few players and landed in front of freshman forward Jordan Fine. Fine collected the ball and put it past Howard keeper Kyra Dickson for the first goal of her collegiate career.
The goal came shortly before Bison forward Sandra Bond responded with a goal from 30 yards out. The ball sailed over the hands of Vicky Cocozza and shifted the momentum of the game considerably. Gosselin called Fine’s goal “huge” for the team, and it allowed the Mount to keep both its lead and its composure.
Blair’s penalty kick put the game out of reach, but it was solid defensive work and goalkeeping from the Mount’s tandem of Cocozza and Rachel Bourne that preserved victory. The net-minders combined for ten saves on the night. Cocozza saved two close shots in the waning minutes as Howard mounted a last-minute push.
“This is a character win,” said Gosselin. “This is an opportunity for the girls to take the lessons learned from the little bits of adversity that we’ve faced and know that good things can happen.”
The Lady Mountaineers followed up their win by playing on the road in Annapolis, where they faced Navy for their final non-conference matchup over the season.
Navy proved to be an intimidating opponent prior to the match, having defeated a nationally ranked team in #24 James Madison and having tied a historically successful program in the University of Maryland, College Park earlier this month.
The Mount managed only one shot against the Midshipmen, while the host team tallied three goals. Paige Peck was credited with the Mount’s only chance on goal. Cocozza and Bourne combined for eleven saves while facing twenty shots on the night.
In spite of the tough loss and lopsided record, the women’s team seems poised to make as much of a splash as possible in NEC play. Blair, after the Howard game, summed up the team’s attitude concisely.
“This is great momentum for us heading into the conference. We have Navy on Monday, and they’re a great team, but if we bring this energy we have a shot against them. If we keep this up, I think we have a great chance in conference this year.”
The Mount begins Northeast Conference play at home against Farleigh Dickinson next Friday, October 3rd. The match is set to kick off at 7 p.m.