MU women’s soccer 4-3-1 after weekend

Marco Cicchino, Staff writer

After allowing a combined 10 goals against the eastern powers earlier this month, Laker head coach Jon Arlet realized it was necessary to shore up his defense if he wanted to have any kind of success in his first season heading the women’s soccer program.  His team did just that on Sept. 21, overcoming a 19-5 shot deficit to stick true to the team’s motto and hold fast, rebounding with a scoreless draw against the 25th-ranked Bloomsburg Huskies.

Overall, this is the program’s best result against a ranked opponent since upsetting then-No. 23 Seton Hill in September 2017.  Finishing at 4-3-1 on the young season while 2-3-1 in-conference, this represents the program’s best seven-game start to a season in the past three years, when the 2016 squad also started 3-3-1 but stumbled to a .500 record.  Already Laker goaltender Vilde Wold (4-3-1, 1.46) had her third shutout on the young season.

Wold, a junior, has lowered her goals-against average by an entire goal over her past five games, with her 47 saves now second in the PSAC.  On this occasion, her 12 stops represent just two off her career-high against Slippery Rock last October, eight of them coming in the second half.  After a more evenly matched opening stanza that saw just five shots and three corners combined, the game was sent into a lightning delay at the half.  The Huskies came out of the intermission sparkling, as the Huskies (4-2-1, all PSAC) fired 16 of their 19 shots at Wold after halftime, five in the two overtime periods.

Bloomsburg’s Jessica Milligan was the closest to breaking the tie, as three of her four shots went directly on goal, including a header in the 96th minute that Wold was able to recover after Bloomsburg’s Lauren Hoelke launched the penultimate of the Huskies’ six corners.  At 105 minutes, Wold made three saves against the Huskies — two from Nicole Varano and one from Allie Barber — that sent her to the turf of Mercyhurst Soccer Field.  That preserved the shutout and prevented the Huskies from coming within a half-game of Kutztown and Millersville in the conference rankings by winning.  An earlier barrage of four shots alternating between Bloomsburg’s Barber and Rachel Clouser beginning at 85 minutes also failed to escape, and a shot each from Varano and Milligan couldn’t break the ice before the 59-minute mark.

Wold “had an insane game,” Bloomsburg’s Natalie Holmes said after the game. “She kept the ball out of that net. She was amazing.”
But the Huskies equaled Wold with their midfield play, allowing only one shot directly on Huskies goalkeeper Jenna Hawkins (4-2-1, 0.55) en-route to her fifth shutout of the campaign.
A corner kick from Mercyhurst’s Maya Bauer on 82 minutes eventually reached the head of fellow Laker Jinan Abdalah, but Hawkins turned it aside and prevented any momentum building for the hosts after they were caught offside two minutes later.

The Huskies’ midfield unit of Holmes, Taya Naudascher and Mackenzie Gebhardt held the hosts without a shot on goal for the first 82 minutes of the game and also didn’t allow another after Abdalah’s header.

“Our midfield is very crucial. We have to make sure that we always win balls in the midfield 50/50s, and if we can’t can get it to our wide players, … (we) just keep our composure,” Holmes said.
While the Lakers didn’t get the score against the Huskies, they picked up a 1-0 win against Pitt-Johnstown on Sept. 23.

Look for Mercyhurst women’s soccer team on Sept. 29, as they take on Kutztown University at 1:30 p.m. at the Mercyhurst Soccer Field.