SPORTS

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October 7, 2008

Strong play for women’s soccer can’t fend off Eagles

Women’s soccer left it all out on the field Saturday, and even dominated at times. But it wasn’t enough to take home a win.

Playing their fifth match against a nationally ranked opponent in their last six contests, the Maroons traveled to Emory for their UAA opener. Despite controlling the ball for most of the game, Chicago dropped a 2–1 decision to the 12th-ranked Eagles (9–1–1, 1–0 UAA) and fell to 4–4–1, 0–1 on the season.

Although the Maroons turned the pressure on against the Eagles’ defense and fourth-year keeper Sarah Wilkerson, they struggled to find the back of the net. Chicago outshot its hosts by a margin of 6–3 in the first half and then 10–4 in the second, but it was Emory who had the comfort of playing with the lead for most of the 90 minutes.

“Saturday was probably our best performance of the year, but we don’t have anything to show for it,” assistant coach Bannon Stroud said. “Emory didn’t have a ton of shots, but we can’t give up those goal-scoring opportunities.”

While Emory capitalized on its two breaks against Chicago’s defense, the Maroons put together their best showings of 2008 this weekend by avoiding turnovers, possessing the ball well in the midfield, and being aggressive in the final third, Stroud said.

Third-year midfielder Claire Gill notched Chicago’s lone goal in its constant attack, lacing one by Wilkerson at the 30:56 mark. By then, though, the Maroons were already looking for a comeback. The Eagles got on the board early thanks to third-year forward Shayna Bryan, the squad’s top scorer.

Bryan collected her fifth goal of the season and gave the Eagles the lead eight minutes into the contest.

Getting to the ball after a throw-in 25 to 30 yards out from the South Siders’ net, Bryan dribbled across the field and slipped one past first-year keeper Emma Gromley.

Quickly down 1–0, the Maroons’ drive to come up with the equalizer started when rookie defender Maggie Tobin ran full speed into a mixture of Emory players and drew a foul. Second-year midfielder Emily Benoit took the free kick that Gill picked up from outside the middle of the net. Firing left-footed, Gill hit the far post.

“I feel like even before we tied the game up, we carried the ball for most of the game,” Stroud said.

Entering the half at a goal apiece, it didn’t take long for the Eagles to regain the lead after the break. Six minutes into the second stanza, fourth-year defender Whitney Briggs tallied the gamewinner for her first goal of the season.

The Maroons would threaten with the remaining time on the clock, but they couldn’t get anything else past Wilkerson. The veteran netminder made three saves in the period to lock up the 2–1 win for Emory.

“I can’t even think of how many times in the final two minutes where we had a chance to tie,” Stroud said. “There were a lot of scrambles, a lot of balls that went off the crossbar; I figured we’d get one for sure.”

Returning to the pitch tomorrow, Chicago hosts Lake Forest (5–5–0) to kick off a six-game home stretch. Aside from a makeup game with Illinois Wesleyan and a late afternoon showdown with Brandeis (6–3–1) on the new Stagg turf, the rest of the matches will be played on the grass field.

The upcoming series at home will be crucial for Chicago to regain the momentum of its 3–0 start to the year. Since the strong opening, the Maroons have had their hands full with nationally ranked opponents like the Eagles and eighth-ranked Wheaton (10–1–1), who they faced for a 3–1 loss September 29.

Playing at Stagg, where they have a 128–28–15 record behind head coach Amy Reifert, could help them redirect the season and give them an important edge for three conference matchups.

“Our team expects to win all of our home games,” Stroud said. “I’m looking forward to, and I think our team is looking forward to, putting together six Ws in that stretch.”