Friday night was a forgettable one for two College of Charleston teams on the road, but the homeless CSU Bucs turned what looked to be a miserable defeat into a hard-fought contest.
BLACKBAUD STADIUM: For the first 78 minutes of play against USC Upstate on Friday afternoon, the CSU Bucs looked alternately flat and frustrated.
The final 12 minutes, however, told a dramatically different story. At the moment when it looked like they were about to pack it in, the North Area squad found a deeper gear, turned their ferocity up to 11, clawed their way back to a one-goal margin and almost found an equalizer — not once, but four times.
They lost 1-2, but not before senior goalkeeper Sarah Plantz recorded her eighth and final save of the day on Chelsea Frankeny‘s final shot — with just eight seconds remaining.
That the Bucs were that close at the end, with the Spartans hanging on like hounds in the back of flatbed pickup, is something of a soccer miracle. Upstate spent the bulk of the afternoon not just the better side, but the dominant one. They opened the scoring in the 7th minute, took their second goal just 10 minutes later, and at no time appeared to be playing near the edge of their abilities. They won most of the midfield duels, possessed the ball, played quality physical defense, and when their chances presented themselves, they finished them calmly.
The Buc style? Touch, touch, long-pass, turnover.
It’s not that the Bucs didn’t have their first-half chances — the best coming in the 25th minute when forward Chelsea Phillips smashed a long-distance screamer to the far post that forced Plantz into a diving save and generated a corner. But with Upstate dominating the midfield, CSU’s best remaining idea looked to be long balls to senior forward Toni Lashley.
“Tactically, I think one of the issues was that defensively, D-midfields were playing too deep, which the attacking midfielders were playing too deep, and so we weren’t getting any numbers forward,” CSU Coach Eric Terrill said after the match. “Toni and Chelsea were kind of off on an island by themselves. So that was really the key element. The one thing that we had to do was we had to stay connected, and we weren’t staying connected.”
Things settled down a bit defensively for the Bucs as the half wore on, and they started the second half with a much better look. But as the second 45 wore on, their reliance on the direct route to Lashley began to look increasingly desperate. And then, at the hour mark, sophomore midfielder Jane Vardzel, a former Wando High School star, entered the match.
On her first touch, Vardzel chipped a nice ball from the touchline in to Lashley in the central channel, forcing Plantz into a dangerous run off her line to kill the one-on-one chance. Her entry into the game boosted the Bucs’ energy and seemed to put the Spartans on the back foot. Yet like their earlier pushes, the surge looked temporary, like a receding tide.
The match returned to a back-and-forth rhythm, and only a diving save by Bucs keeper Dana McLaughlin kept the Spartans from extending their lead to three goals. The Bucs responded with less than 19 minutes remaining when Frankeny’s cross found Lashley running the center lane for a spectacular goal — but the linesman’s flag waved it off with an offsides call.
With 12 minutes remaining, the Bucs looked done. And then Vardzel stepped in.
Taking the ball along the right touch and driving hard toward goal, she reached the right side of the box, maintained possession, and centered the ball back to midfielder Allie Lewis, a senior who had been combining with Vardzel and midfielder Emma Faubert all half. Lewis pushed forward and fired hard from inside the box, leaving Plantz no play and pulling the Bucs back into the game.
“I’ve been looking for a goal, ” Lewis said after the match. “I’ve been kinda down on myself all season. Kinda wanting, needing that goal to give myself a little confidence, give my team a little confidence in me as well. ”
Buoyed by Lewis’ finish, the Bucs turned in an inspiring final 10 minutes. Terrill threw everyone forward at Upstate’s backline. Frankeny, Lewis, Vardzel and Faubert seemed to find openings that weren’t there before. And Lashley had attacking help not just behind her, but all around her. The change had its risks — McLaughlin needed another save to prevent the Spartans from pulling one back — but the Bucs almost scored with 9 minutes remaining, again in the 85th minute, and once again in the 86th.
Lewis fought her way into the box, sloughing off a challenge from a trailing defender, and put a pass across the center. Lashley soared high to poke the ball in with her foot, but the ball sailed just past her, where Frankeny collected it. The attack ended with a bang-band exchange at the near post, and the lead intact. Barely.
The match ended with Frankeny’s final shot, leaving the Bucs to ponder what might have been.
“To me it’s real simple: We started out flat, just not with a lot of energy, and that hurt us,” Terrill said. “I think we were disorganized in the back… there were a lot of players coming through, we weren’t picking up players, they were able to capitalize fairly quickly on us in the first 15 minutes. I thought the game leveled out, but I still think they had more of the physical play early in the first half. I think as the second half went on, we were able to turn the tides.
“I think we got some opportunities that I would hope that we’d finish away, but we were unable to finish away. We had one that was called back, we had a couple that the goalkeeper made some huge saves. So again, I give all the credit to Upstate, they were able to pull two early when we were flat, and we were not able to finish off at the end of the game. So it’s not the way I would have wanted it to go, but you know, that’s what happens.”
Terrill praised Lewis and Vardzel for leading the late push. Lewis has been battling confidence issues this season, he said, but looked sharp in practice last week and scored “a wonderful goal.”
Vardzel, he said, “was a huge spark for us. Jane’s biggest issue in early games was that she was all over the place, wasn’t keeping possession. But I think Jane was a huge spark for us. She worked exceptionally hard. I think she created some opportunities for us. She had fresh legs. And I think you kinda see that toward the middle of the season.
“The thing with Jane is she has stayed mentally there and mentally fit and trying to kinda work her way into the system. And you get kids that fall off. You have injures, and then you get fatigue. And I thought our defensive midfielders were fatigued. Chelsea Phillips is going through a knee issue right now, so she’s looking a little sluggish. So I think that Jane was able to come in, and today the difference between Jane early in the season and now was that she did a lot of work, but when she had possession of the ball, she was much more calm about it and didn’t loose possession.”
College of Charleston women 0, UNC-Charlotte 6
From Nick Vlattas, Assistant Director of Athletics Communications
CHARLOTTE:The College of Charleston women’s soccer team fell, 6-0, to Charlotte in the Cougars’ final non-conference bout of the season at Transamerica Field on Friday night.
After an extremely challenging out-of-conference slate, CofC (2-7) gets a fresh start with the opening of its inaugural Colonial Athletic Association season when the Cougars make their in-conference debut on Friday, Sept. 27 with a home match against Northeastern at Patriots Point.
“This was a harsh result for what was a pretty good game,” said head coach Christian Michner. “It was a mostly-even match in the middle of the field, but the difference was that inside the 18 they took advantage and buried their chances. We were unlucky on a couple of occasions, but when you give up six goals you’re not going to win a game.”
Read the rest here.
Michner’s women open The College’s Colonial Athletic Association era on Friday at Patriots Point against Northeastern.
College of Charleston men 0, Stanford 2
Stanford junior forward Zach Batteer netted a pair of goals to give the Cardinal a 2-0 edge over the College of Charleston men’s soccer team at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium on Friday night.
The Cougars (1-4 overall) complete the West Coast swing with a match against No. 4 California on Sunday, Sept. 22 before returning home to open their inaugural Colonial Athletic Association in-conference season.
Batteer entered the match tied for the Cardinal team-high in goals, and his brace on Friday night was the decisive difference in a rematch of last year’s bout – a 2-1 overtime victory for CofC at Patriots Point.
He was opportunistic in just the second minute of the game when Aaron Kovar sent a long throw-in into the box and Matt Taylor headed it across the goal mouth to Batteer who was waiting at the far post and finished to give the Cardinal the early advantage.
“This was a tough game against a good side,” said head coach Ralph Lundy. “I thought Stanford started faster than we did and going down a goal early really hurt. We responded well in the second half and created some good chances; unfortunately we didn’t put any away.
“Overall we are making progress forward and look forward to another challenge on Sunday.”
Read the rest here.
The Cougars face national power California in Berkeley on Sunday night. It’s their last non-conference match before they open their first Colonial Athletic Association season on Sept. 28 at Patriots Point against UNC Wilmington.
About that CSU field
When the Bucs played the Cougars for the Silver Cup at Patriots Point, one of the stories of the game was that the location had to be moved to The College’s house because of the Bucs’ field wasn’t ready for the start of the season.
At the time, CSU said they’d be moving their August tournament to Blackbaud Stadium, but expected to be back on their own campus once the problems on their field were resolved.
But I kept hearing — from basically everyone except CSU — that the Bucs’ field wasn’t going to be ready any time soon, and that potentially all their games would have to be played elsewhere. Likely locations: Blackbaud Stadium, but also potentially Patriots Point.
I emailed CSU to confirm Blackbaud as the site for Friday’s match earlier in the week, but go no reply. So when I ran into Seth Montgomery, the sports information contact for the soccer after the game, I asked what was wrong with the field. His reply: The contractor hired to overhaul the pitch botched the job.
Will the Bucs play all their games at Blackbaud? He doesn’t know. He’s treating it week-by-week.
TOP IMAGE: Sophomore forward Chelsea Frankeny of Charleston Southern threads a cross past Alexa Hone of USC Upstate in the dying minutes of the Bucs’ 1-2 loss on Friday. Dan Conover photos.