PATRIOTS POINT: There was a moment, early in the second half, when it looked like Christian Michner’s second-half adjustments might just be enough to reverse a tide that ran hard against his Cougars before the break.
After all, the the Northeastern Huskies — the Boston school that initiated the College of Charleston women into the school’s Colonial Athletic Association era on Friday night — out-shot the Cougars 11-1 in the first 45. But in the first 15 minutes of the second half, the hosts flipped that script, getting off four shots to the Huskies’ two, taking command of midfield and unleashing senior forward McCallie Jones.
Down just a goal, it looked like the Cougars’ were on their way to an equalizer — until midfielder Morgan Hilby rose to head-in a cross from forward Hanna Terry in the 64th minute, and the aggressive Huskies put an end to the CofC’s hopes. They would go on find a third goal and seal a convincing win — the Huskies’ first of 2013 (1-6-3, 1-0-0 in the CAA). The College dropped to 2-8-0 and 0-1-0 in the conference. The Huskies out
-shot the Cougars 4-1 after the hour-mark and punished Charleston with rapid counters.
“It’s a baptism by fire,” said head coach Christian Michner. “Northeastern is a good team which has struggled a little bit with the non-conference portion but they’re a very well-coached team that finished near the top of the league last year. So we knew we had our work cut out for us.
“In the first half, they really had the run of play. In the second half we had more quality. The bottom line in this league is you have to be tough enough for 90 minutes to get results.”
The Cougars played this match with just 13 fit and eligible players dressed for the night, and it doesn’t get easier. They leave Saturday for New York in advance of Sunday’s away date at Hofstra. And though the team on the field had plenty of familiar faces, an injury to regular starting keeper Ellie Sarasola contributed to Michner’s decision to start backup Taylor Avery. Michner called the decision “a little bit of both” when asked if it was an injury decision or a performance decision, saying that Avery has been training well lately, and Sarasola’s health made his choice easy.
Avery rewarded her coach with five saves on 11 shots in the first 45 minutes and generally looked composed and athletic throughout the match. She finished the night with six saves on 17 shots and three goals allowed.
Northeast didn’t roll into Charleston with the regional “Northeastern-style football” game plan. Instead of bunkering and playing for the ugly win, the Huskies began the match with high pressure that repeatedly forced the Cougars into back-passes, turnovers and rapid retreats. With the Cougars unable to possess the ball beyond the midstripe for more than a few passes at a time, the Huskies came close to blowing the game open in the first 30 minutes. Instead, Avery’s stellar first half forced the visitors to settle for MacKenzie Dowd’s close-in goal in teh 20th minute.
But when the teams returned for the second half, the tenor of the contest changed immediately, with Cougar midfielders pushing forward, making runs into space, and finding ways to get the ball ahead to Jones. With Jones breaking down the Huskies’ back line with runs down the center of the field, space began to emerge behind her for midfielders Danielle Mellem, Michaela Herrmann and winger Nicole Koretsky. Each had at least one shot come tantalizingly close to an equalizer — none more excruciatingly so than a strike by Herrman that blasted through the gloves of keeper Paige Burnett at the top of the six … and then rolled slowly past the right post of her otherwise empty net.
A few minutes later, a Cougars’ corner appeared to have knotted things back up, when the Cougars knocked the ball past Burnett and across the line in a wild scramble at the near post. The linesman called the play offside.
After picking up their second goal of the night, the Huskies became largely content to counter whenever the Cougars’ left themselves vulnerable.
TOP IMAGE: With center back Claire Newman trailing the play, this first-half attack came down to a showdown between the Huskies’ Hanna Terry and the Cougars’ Taylor Avery, who came off her line aggressively to kill this chance from roughly eight yards out. Dan Conover photos.