College of Charleston captain Victoria Fichman poked in a rebound in the second minute of the second overtime period, handing an exhausted Cougars side the Silver Cup trophy despite a valiant effort by Charleston Southern.
In addition to the golden-goal game-winner in double-overtime, the match featured a stunning goal-strike by CSU forward Chelsea Phillips, five spectacular flip-throws by C of C forward McCallie Jones, and at least three highlight-reel saves by goalkeepers Dan McLaughlin of CSU and Eli Sarasola of the College .
“Always fun to win a college game in overtime and be able to run out (onto the field),” College of Charleston Coach Christian Michner said. “Credit to both teams. What a battle.”
Michner’s squad dominated the early going on a night that had the markings of a Cougars blowout. With Jones dominating the right side of the attacking third and freshmen tandem Danielle Mellem and Riley Narum wreaking havoc in central midfield and left wing, respectively, the College repeatedly took the fight to the Bucs. C of C out-shot CSU 11 to 2 in the first 45 minutes, yet couldn’t close the deal.
“We knew that attacking wise we had a lot of strengths, and we created a lot of chances. But we’ve got to bury those. We had a lot of very good chances to score, early especially. I thought in the second half slowed down a little bit, but I think both teams got stretched and a little tired. But Eric’s got a great team. Credit to him and his girls to come in and fight. We knew it was going to be a battle, and they’re going to cause some damage this year.”
The Cougars’ best chance of the first half came with about 10 minutes reminaing when a great pass from midfielder Francesca Kentimenos found Jones in front of goal with just one marker to beat. Jones’ short shot looked like a sure winner, but freshman keeper McLaughlin made a great save — one of seven she recorded on the night — to deny a sure goal to Jones. Earlier in the half, a Jones cross came up empty when Mellem bent her own shot shot wide of the near post.
Freshman Mellem figured prominently in Friday night’s proceedings, logging 101 minutes, scoring the night’s first goal, creating another opportunity that ended with a blown shot, and doinking a poor back-pass that almost put the Bucs on the board. But she’ll likely remember her first collegiate match for the goal she scored in the 78th minute. It began with a shanked goal kick by McLaughlin, which the Cougars’ midfield won in the attacking third. The scrambling Bucs gave up a free kick near the right touchline, and defender Kate Twohig’s kick beat a two-woman wall, crossed the face of goal, and found Mellem, who chested the ball in from close range at the back post.
Five minutes later, Bucs senior forward Toni Lashley found her strike partner, Chelsea Phillips, with a centering pass. The sophomore took it to goal from the top of the 18 with pace and authority.
But no player on either side loomed larger than Jones. The 5-9 senior out of Charlotte kept the Bucs under pressure from the second minute, creating one attacking chance after another, often by deploying her signature flip throw. Jones’ uncanny ability to launch a pass by turning her body into a whip sent arcing balls into the penalty box time after time. She failed to put a shot on goal, but she was there at the end, when it counted.
The Cougars escaped the first overtime looking like a prizefighter who has punched his way to exhaustion. But they started the second overtime sharp, and Jones’ run set up a chance that ended with a shot by either Jones or Nicole Koretsky (my notes say Jones, the College’s coaching staff saw it as Koretsky) banging off the far post. With McLaughlin scrambling to smother it, team captain Fichman found herself “at the right place at the right time.”
“It’s one of those things that we’d been working all game for and I really felt like our team wanted it and deserved it,” Fichman said. “That’s just a hustle play, and I wouldn’t have been in that position if it hadn’t been for McCallie running to that ball.”
The sequence was so disjointed that Michner held his team on the sidelines for a few extra seconds just to wait for the official call, before sending them out to mob Fichman.
“We’ll certainly celebrate the win, because every win is a good win,” Michner said. “Especially against a crosstown rival and winning the Silver Cup. It’s nice that it stays with us. But we’ll watch the tape… and we’ll sorta reflect. I thought overall it was a good performance. We kept possession, we created chances, and we didn’t give away very many. Although I’ll tell you that our goalkeeper Eli made probably two massive saves that kept us in it, and really one that was very late that saved our behinds. So we got it from a senior goalkeeper and from a senior front-runner finishing it off. ”
Bucs coach Eric Terrill accentuated the positive despite the late loss.
“I’m really happy with the way the girls played, because we just were not good last year,” he said. “We didn’t have the chemistry, we didn’t play well last year, so this is a huge step for us. College of Charleston is a very good team. They’ll be exceptionally good in the CAA.
“I can’t ask for a better game to really kinda step forward and try to prove ourselves. I think we proved ourselves tonight, and I hope that carries over into the next game, and the next game, and the next game after that.
“I feel like the College of Charleston was more confident at the beginning of the game. I think as the game progressed, we got better and better. It’s just kids with a lot of inexperience playing on the field, and they’re just getting better and more comfortable.”
TOP IMAGE: The 2013 College of Charleston Cougars hoist their first hardware of the season. Dan Conover photos.