Just as the race for the UAA title is about to heat up, women’s soccer is clicking together in all the right ways.
The Maroons (6–4–1, 1–1 UAA) put on a fine display of inventive attacking soccer in the 3–0 victory over Carnegie Mellon (5–4–2, 0–2) Saturday, led by third-year midfielder Claire Gill, who scored her fourth and fifth goals and picked up her third assist of the season.
Chicago took advantage of early ball possession, breaking through the Tartans’ defense in the ninth minute with a systematic play. Third-year forward Brooke Bontz carried the ball down the byline before passing to fourth-year strike partner Olivia Ndyabagye near Carnegie’s left post. Ndyabagye’s initial flicked pass was blocked by a defender, but a second centering attempt found third-year midfielder Claire Gill, who slid her shot home from the center of the box to give the Maroons a 1–0 lead.
The Tartans nearly responded four minutes later, as fourth-year forward Abigail Coffin sent a glancing header toward the Chicago net that was palmed away by fourth-year goalkeeper Polly Cline. Cline collected seven saves en route to her first shutout—and the team’s fourth—of the year.
The Maroons retained control of the match, however, and struck again at the 19:18 mark after Gill hit Bontz on the trot with a long switch. With room and time, Bontz sent a stinging shot past second-year goalkeeper Anya Rosen.
Gill was again at the center of the action just after the half-hour mark, picking up the ball about 20 yards out after extended pressure from the Maroons, picking out her shot, and sending a high ball arcing over and behind Rosen for her second tally of the game.
The Maroons’ clinical finishing was a complete reversal from last Wednesday’s match against Lake Forest, which needed two overtime periods before the team could make their chances count.
“Between the Lake Forest game and the [Carnegie] game, we talked a lot about finishing in the final third and just doing whatever it takes to get the ball in the net,” Gill said. “We also talked a lot about momentum and what we can do to control the momentum of a game, and especially about the key periods in the game—the first and last 10 minutes of each half where momentum would be especially important.”
With three goals in the first 45 minutes head coach Amy Reifert turned to her bench for much of the second half. Although the Maroons were unable to add to their lead, their continued possession kept Carnegie from mounting any offensive pressure.
“We were still tired from playing Lake Forest, so having that added depth at home on Saturday was huge,” Reifert said.” Our depth is terrific, and it really does make a world of difference when we’re able to use it—and going up a few goals makes it easier to use our depth.”
Being able to rest starters and rely on the squad is an advantage that Chicago only has at Stagg Field—UAA rules limit visiting teams to an 18-man roster that sometimes proves to be the difference on long weekend trips. For now, though, Reifert and the Maroons have found a rhythm that suits them, one that they want to maintain for the rest of the season.
“The consistent level of play that we’ve seen since the Emory game is where we need to be,” Reifert said. “We need to continue to demand a tremendous amount from each other; we need to continue to take advantage of momentum.”
Two games into the UAA season, no team is out of the running, and this weekend’s double slate pits them against Brandeis on Friday afternoon and NYU Sunday morning. With Reifert and the Maroons hoping to extend their run in the conference, the decisive win against Carnegie should provide a template for the kind of soccer that works.
“I think as the season has gone on we’ve all increasingly realized the importance of every game, especially now that UAAs have started, and at this point we have to do whatever it takes to find a way to win and control a game,” Gill said. “Saturday definitely showed how everyone is stepping up and getting that done.”