09 Oct Navy Earns Important League Win over Lehigh on Senior Night
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy women’s soccer team grabbed an important three points in the Patriot League standings on Friday night with a 2-1 victory over Lehigh. Invigorated by a large crowd at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility that was in town to celebrate Navy’s Senior Class of 2022 and the program’s alumni reunion, the Mids (7-5-2, 2-2-1 PL) came flying out of the gate with an Alexa Riddle (Fr., Tomball, Texas) goal 83 seconds into the contest over the Mountain Hawks (4-6-1, 2-2-1 PL). Tied a halftime, senior Molly Gillcrist (San Diego, Calif.) made sure that she would have a Senior Night to remember as she netted Navy’s go-ahead goal in the 65th minute.
“Right now we’re focusing one game at a time,” remarked head coach Carin Gabarra. “Lehigh has had a lot of success this year, but we’ve always played well against them so we came in really prepared tonight. We had a lot of time in training this week to prepare.
“We did a lot of things well tonight. We’re really happy with the group of players that stepped in because every time we made a change our tempo and our play got better. A lot of credit goes out to those players that came into the game and made a difference. I’m super thrilled for Molly Gillcrist, who came in and scored a great goal for us on Senior Night. It’s almost inevitable on Senior Night that we’ll have a senior step up on this special night; that makes it a lot of fun.”
Riddle got the hometown fans fired up within the first 90 seconds of action as she was on the receiving end of a booming Mattie Gallagher (So., Gilbertsville, Pa.) punt. Once in possession of the ball, the freshman forward dribbled her way around and through a series of Lehigh defenders before unleashing a powerful left-footed strike from the top of the 18-yard box. Riddle’s goal came at the 1:23 mark of the first half.
The Mids’ lead was short-lived as the visiting Mountain Hawks drew even less than four minutes later when they converted a corner kick into a goal at 5:17.
Lehigh kept up its offensive pressure the rest of the first half as they tallied four more shots on goal, though Gallagher was up to the task. The Mountain Hawks’ highest percentage look was a Corinne Lyght shot from seven yards out that required Gallagher to dive to her left and bat the shot away in the 34th minute.
Tied 1-1 going into halftime, Lehigh held a 11-5 advantage in total shots with a 5-3 edge in shots on goal.
Navy picked up its offensive output, as well as tightened up its defensive marking in the second half as the Mids looked to pull ahead. Amanda Graziano (Fr., Middlebury, Conn.) recorded the Mids’ first shot on goal of the second stanza when she redirected a Kassidy Borden (So., Leesburg, Va.) free kick and challenged the Mountain Hawks’ goalkeeper low and to her left in the 50th minute.
Less than 10 minutes later, Lehigh registered its only two shots on goal of the half. First up was Ryelle Shuey, who ripped a free kick from just outside of the 18-yard box through Navy’s wall and forced Gallagher to drop to her knees and dive on the shot. A little over 30 seconds later, Ava Schaller put her attempt on frame for Gallagher’s sixth and final save of the contest.
With Lehigh’s offense held at bay for the final 30 minutes, it was Navy’s chance to pull ahead and the Mids did just that in the 65th minute. Built off of a lengthy Sadie McCaleb (Jr., Loganton, Pa.) throw-in into the box, Gillcrist received a header flick-on by Rylee Rives (Fr., Arlington, Texas) and quickly hit a left-footed shot into the low left corner of the net at 65:00.
Up 2-1, Navy’s defense turned aside a pair of late Lehigh looks in the final third as Katie Herrmann (So., Charlotte, N.C.) stepped in front of a dangerous pass inside the six-yard box in the 70th minute and Gallagher soared over a pack of on-coming Mountain Hawk attackers and punched away a deep free kick in the 83rd minute.
That well-rounded effort in the second half helped Navy hold onto the one-goal victory and pull even with Lehigh in the Patriot League standings with matching 2-2-1 records through five conference contests.
For the game, Lehigh outshot Navy, 13-12 with a 7-6 advantage in shots on goal. The host Midshipmen recorded five corner kicks versus three for the Mountain Hawks.
“Alexa Riddle had a great goal to get us going,” said Gabarra. “We worked some more on finishing this week. We have a lot of different players that we can play up front and they all have a slightly different style. Amanda Graziano and Emma Frommelt are very good on the ball with their back to pressure, Riddle, Caitlin Doran and Molly Gillcrist are really speedy and Jeana Freeman is a little in the middle as she can do both very well. We like to change things up and see who’s performing that night and they all did really well tonight exhibiting different habits and different styles. They all meshed really well.
“Our team defense was solid once again. We rotated more than normal because everyone has been playing well. Kieffer Williamson has been phenomenal for us the past two weeks. Her training habits, her 1 v. 1 defending and her mentality when she steps on the field has really been a huge spark for us. Kassidy Borden can step in anywhere and change the game. We rotated six players in the back tonight and they all performed very well.”
Prior to Friday night’s game, the program recognized its Senior Class and celebrated the careers of Avery Fries (Draper, Utah), Gillcrist, Megan LaMendola (Springdale, Ark.), Victoria Tran (Clarksville, Md.) and team captain Carolyn Mang (Forest Hill, Md.).
“We had a really nice showing from our families and alumni, who made it a great atmosphere with all of our local fans,” said Gabarra in closing. “We really appreciate that support, especially on Senior Night. We’re happy to get this win versus a really quality Lehigh team.”
Navy will be back in Patriot League action next Wednesday with a road matchup at American. The Mids and Eagles are scheduled for a 3 p.m. kickoff in Washington, D.C.
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