October 6, 2006

Forest chumps: Women's soccer cruises at home

For one game at least, all seemed well with women’s soccer.

Allaying any fears of injuries derailing their season, the Maroons (8–1–1, 1–0–0 UAA) notched a deserved 2–0 victory over a scrappy but severely overmatched Lake Forest (5–4–0, 3–1–0 MWC) Tuesday at home. With the squad’s top scorer, third-year forward Christine Farmer, still listed as day-to-day with an MCL injury, Chicago has had to find goals from other sources. Against the Foresters, fourth-year forward Jordan Pouliot and classmate midfielder Maya Pratt lifted the team’s offense with a goal apiece, while second-year midfield Siggy Nachtergaele was once again at the forefront of the action.

In the absence of her striking partner Farmer, much has been asked of Pouliot and in Tuesday’s performance, the New Hampshire native asserted herself well up top. The Maroons will count on her to carry that confidence into the much tougher game against Emory Saturday.

Putting the Maroons on the board after a scoreless first frame, Nachtergaele beautifully threaded a ball that met Pouliot perfectly in stride cutting across the top of the area. The veteran’s first touch was superb but failed to find its way to the net. Fourth-year goalkeeper Kristyne Operzedek saved the initial shot, however, and Pouliot quickly reacted and poked the ball home on the second attempt.

After Nachtergaele and Pouliot broke the deadlock thanks to some well crafted ball movement, third-year defender Amanda Catalano connected with Pratt to tally Chicago’s final goal just two minutes later. Catalano, who is making a name for herself as a dead ball specialist, got the play rolling on a corner kick, one of 15 on the day. Her in-swinging ball slipped past two attempts at a clear by Lake Forest’s back five and met Pratt, who was instinctively in the right place at the right time to blast the ball into the roof of the net.

Suddenly trailing 2–0, the Foresters offered little in terms of offensive production, allowing third-year backstop Amanda Sutter to earn what will probably be one of the easiest shutouts in her college career. With the usual arrangement of the back line jostled by injuries, Tuesday’s defense stepped up to help Sutter secure Chicago’s seventh clean sheet on the season.

Spurned chances and wasteful play could come back to haunt Chicago at some point later in the season, but on this day they had enough impetus to keep going forward in search of a winner. The Maroons’ 29 shots was an impressive feat, no doubt. However, they will need to be better in front of goal and improve their goals to shots ratio; they won’t get 29 chances a game when UAA play picks up.

One extremely positive aspect of Wednesday’s game was the contribution of first-year Claire Gill. Playing with a Richard Hamilton–esque face mask, Gill cuts an imposing figure on the pitch. Wednesday she had her most notable game in a Maroons shirt as she won countless challenges in the midfield and distributed the ball confidently and competently. It was her driving force in the midfield that proved to be the catalyst for the Maroons in the second half of Wednesday’s game, and though she didn’t get on the score sheet, she helped consolidate the victory for the team with her quality play.

Given the circumstances, it was a well deserved victory for the Maroons, with the biggest bonus not being in the wins column but in the overall confidence generated for the team. It was fortuitous scheduling on the part of Reifert, but in light of all the recent injuries, this game could be crucial come the end of the season. The game allowed the squad’s young players to work out their kinks ahead of the big road trip.

“With most all of our 11 starters being seniors last year, a lot of our players have not held leadership positions until this year,” said fourth-year defender Sally Hall, who in the process of accommodating the team’s injuries has moved from right back to center back and has adapted extremely well.

“But looking at our record, we’ve done a great job considering our somewhat young team. I know that we will only get better and better as the season progresses.”

The Maroons travel to Atlanta to face Emory on Saturday in what will no doubt be a much tougher game. The team will have to be at its best for this UAA conference game, but as the Maroons have showed this year, if they play well they can get the better of anybody.