So we’re a week before Labor Day, and the local soccer calendar is blowing up with college matches, USL PRO playoff action, and plenty of excuses to drink beer and watch the beautiful game. Let’s run it down.
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON WOMEN: The North Florida Ospreys dropped a first-half wundergoal on the Cougars, then thwarted a persistent but over-extended C of C attack in the second, culminating dramatically with three blocked shots in the frantic final 15 seconds of play.
North Florida’s 1-0 win at Patriots Point on Sunday afternoon evened the Cougars’ season record at 1-1.
“It was two teams playing on Sunday with tired legs, both teams (coming off) overtime matches,” said Cougars Coach Christian Michner. “It’s a shame the only thing that separates us was a 55-yard bomb from the midstripe. Credit to her, but we’ve got to do better than that defensively.
Sophomore defender Laura Keating of UNF scored Sunday afternoon’s only goal at Patriots Point when her 55-yard free kick sailed long, bounced and befuddled Cougars’ keeper Eli Sarasola.
With the Ospreys focused on soaking-up clock and defending their slim lead, Michner — who favors a possession-based style — encouraged his women to take a more direct approach in the second half. The Route One option kept North Florida under pressure, but produced few open chances and unleashed multiple Osprey counterattacks.
“I think the players were sort of one-tracking it in the second half, where we thought we had to get behind every time,” Michner said. “We abandoned playing east and west a little bit, and played north and south more than we’re typically accustomed to. And that direction came from me to see if we couldn’t get behind them. We need to also do what we’re good at, and not abandon our philosophy all the way… So that’s something that they’ll learn from, and grow, as we go along in the season.”
The long-ball attack unleashed the athletic talents of freshman winger Riley Narum, sophomore striker Francesca Kentimenos, senior forward McCallie Jones. Each produced dramatic individual efforts, including a 60-yard run with the ball by Narum that sprung Kentimenos for a shot that missed just wide, and a series of eye-popping plays by Jones.
Jones, who possesses the most unique weapon in Lowcountry soccer, unleashed several of her trademark flip-throw-ins, but had to leave the field with assistance after an aerial collision on a corner kick with about 6:30 minutes remaining. With their senior attacking leader on the bench icing a leg injury, Kentimenos and Narum tried to pick up the slack, pushing furiously for an equalizer.
That desperate hustle produced a hurried corner kick with 20 seconds remaining. It settled directly in front of goal, where bodies collided without clear advantage. At least two Cougars — including Narum — took point-black tries, but the Ospreys managed to block each before it got to their keeper, and cleared to safety with less than five seconds remainging.
The loss took a bit of the shine off the Cougars’ tense 2-1 victory in the Silver Cup at Patriots Point on Friday. You can read our write-up here. For the College’s own account, go here. The story is also pumped up with video highlights and an interview with Michner.
The College travels next to Champaign, Ill., to play the Fighting Illini, on Friday, Aug. 30.
CSU: Troubles with their home field have pushed the Buccaneers into nomad mode this month. The issues cost them a chance to host the Silver Cup on Friday, and given how tight the double-overtime match turned out to be, it might have cost them a significant edge.
The Bucs host Francis Marion University on Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. for the first of three consecutive “home games” they’ll play at Blackbaud Stadium. On Friday they host Canisus College at 4 p.m., followed Saturday by a 2 p.m. match against Jacksonville State.
“We appreciate our relationship with Blackbaud and the Battery and also the mutual relationship and help that we’ve both provided each other throughout the years,” said Coach Eric Terrill. “It’s a venue that brings a lot of prestige for our team to play in, and I know the girls are excited about the opportunity to play there.”
THE CITADEL: The Bulldogs lost to the powerhouse University of Maryland Terrapins Friday night by the FIFA 2014-ish score of 9-0. The No. 17 Terrapins forced Bulldogs keeper Naomi Carter into three saves in the first 18 minutes before breaking through.
The team took another big loss Sunday, dropping a 0-5 decision to the Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy. Carter recorded seven saves in 58 minutes as the Midshipmen out-shot the Bulldogs 29-1.
They’ll play their home opener Friday at 4 p.m. against Jacksonville State.
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON MEN: Ralph Lundy’s Cougars found themselves in an extended scrap with East Tennessee in Saturday night’s exhibition match at Patriots Point, but junior Tanner Clay managed to elevate his 6-3 frame and knocked in a game-winning header in the 85th minute.
“They were a very good team and a great test for us,” said head coach Ralph Lundy. “We got our rhythm and we got our style and we figured out how we play successfully. The biggest thing we have to work on is that we started the match trying to force the play and it caused turnovers. That put ETSU in the driver seat for the first 15 to 18 minutes. Then we got into our rhythm and started playing the way we’ve been training and the way we know is successful: Keeping the ball and playing it around the park with much passing and great ball passing. We knew it – but for some reason we lost that. We got it back and we imprinted it from then on and it was a great match.”
The Cougars open their regular season on Friday night in a 7:30 showdown with perennial power Akron University at Patriots Point. The Zips begin the year ranked No. 8 in the NSCAA poll as they start an NCAA season without Coach Caleb Porter for the first time since 2005. Under Porter, who left to coach the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer at season’s end, the Zips compiled a 119-18-17 record and won the 2010 NCAA Championship. They’re now coached by former assistant Jared Embrick.
While the Battery’s fourth consecutive playoff victory dating back to the 2012 post-season was great news Saturday night, the result puts us in a bind here.
I’d assumed that the Orlando City Lions would host their USL PRO semi-final on Saturday, allowing me to cover the Cougars-Zips tilt on Friday night at Patriots Point and the Battery-Lions match at the Florida Citrus Bowl on Saturday. Instead, the Lions will host the Battery on Friday night at 7:30, which just screws up all sorts of things.
So we’ll be looking for a way to raise money to cover both matches between now and the weekend. More on that later.
No word yet on whether any local Battery fans plan on making the Orlando trip as a group, but if anyone is interested, please leave a comment here, and we’ll try to get something organized.
In the meantime here’s a nice Andrew Miller article about Battery goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper’s rookie season, and the contact lenses that elevated his performance.
TOP IMAGE: College of Charleston senior forward McCallie Jones launches a flip-throw-in Sunday afternoon against North Florida University. The technique allows Jones to throw a soccer ball up to 65 yards, turning routine Cougar throw-ins in the attacking third into the equivalent of corner kicks. Dan Conover photos.