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WSOC: Two Own Goals End Flyer Season 4-2 in A10 Semis
WSOC: Two Own Goals End Flyer Season 4-2 in A10 Semis
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
Smile WSOC: Two Own Goals End Flyer Season 4-2 in A10 Semis

The Dayton Flyers surrendered an own goal just 25 seconds into the A10 Women's Soccer Semifinal, tied it up, lost the lead, tied it up again before halftime, but couldn't keep the Saint Louis Billikens out of the net as two 2nd half scores -- including another Flyer own goal -- ended UD's season with a 4-2 defeat at Baujan Field. Dayton was looking to make the A10 finals for the first time since 2016 when they were crowned champs, but Sloo got past the Flyers for the ninth consecutive match and moves on the A10 Finals on Sunday vs UMass. Dayton ends the season at 12-6-2 (8-2).

Dayton's best chance to knock off the Billikens for the first time in over five years centered around scoring first and not playing from behind, limiting defensive bugaboos, and overcoming SLU's intense pace and physicality. Unfortunately, the winning recipe took a major blow just 25 seconds after kickoff when the Flyers knocked in a Sloo cross for an own goal to put themselves down 1-0 before most players had taken their first touch of the game. While the own goal was unfortunate, SLU was the beneficiary of a great dribble-drive down the left side of the box that shed the primary Flyer defender and allowed the cross to get into the box at all. Shocked and in the position UD didn't want to find themselves, the next 10 minutes were a critical measuring stick to see how the Flyers would respond; falling behind by two scores would make the climb back nearly impossible against one of the A10's best defensive teams.

The Flyers didn't waste much time punching back however. Noel Blain fed Laney Huber crashing the goal mouth and her one-time redirect in front of the box evened the match at 1-1 with less than six minutes played. The goal came on UD's first dangerous push into SLU territory after the Bills dominated the early minutes with possession in UD's defensive half of the field.

Saint Louis steadily regained control of the majority of possession over the next 20 minutes as their faster pace, quicker reaction times, and physicality on the ball caused the Flyers repeated trouble -- especially defending in and around the UD goal box. Dayton struggled to clear quality balls out and away from danger as many boots were soft-footed to Billiken players or stolen outright from physical tackles and dispossession inside 30yds. The inability to distribute accurate service out of the back hampered UD's ability to generate a sustained offensive push. Instead, UD's best chances came on counter-attacks when the field opened up and forced the SLU defenders to chase in space and surrender running lanes to Sheldon, Marlee Taylor, Itala Gemelli, Laney Huber and others.

The Bills regained the lead in the 28th minute on a similar attacking strategy that netted the early own goal, this time on another speedy and powerful dribble drive that the Dayton back line could not keep pace with and turn away outside the scoring zone. Down 2-1, UD had to once again find a way to erase a first half deficit and prevent a potential back-breaking goal before halftime that might have put things too far out of reach.

Dayton was up for that challenge too.

Jess Sheldon's cross followed a counter-attack that leveraged her speedy ability to get around an edge and place a dangerous ball into the box. Alexa Holl's well-timed run and one-time finish got past the SLU goalkeeper to even the match at 2-2 in the 37th minute. Saint Louis had not surrendered two goals in a match since a 3-1 loss to Duquesne on Sept. 23rd. Clearly the Flyers had enough offense to make things interesting, but could the defense tighten up for the remainder of the half and all of the second half to give their scorers a chance?

Until halftime at least, it was mission accomplished. Shots favored SLU 4-3 and corner kicks 4-0. While the halftime stats weren't overwhelming, the Bills still controlled a preponderance of the action and looked capable of generating scoring chances at a much higher rate than the counter-attacking Flyer offense.

As the second half kicked off, SLU once again put pressure on UD's back line with the same pace and physicality they demonstrated in the first 45 minutes. Dayton withstood the pressure for the first few minutes but things always felt like the Bills were one Flyer mis-touch from finding the back of the net because of their ability to capitalize on mistakes or moments of indecision. Dayton's error was SLU's gain in the 50th minute when a poorly-executed clearance in the defensive third landed right into the wheelhouse of a Billiken attacking player. She quickly countered with UD out of position and a well-placed cross was finished in front of the Flyer goal box to once again give SLU a one-goal lead -- this time at 3-2.

The good news was UD had 40 minutes to find an equalizer. The bad news was it never mattered because SLU made it 4-2 just two minutes later after a UD defender mis-fired on a header clearance for the second Dayton own goal of the match. It was a brutal storyline that was unfolding as three of SLU's four scores in the match were at the hands of Dayton defensive miscues -- either from self-destruction of just bad luck from the Soccer Gods.

Competing from a two-goal deficit was a lot to ask, but Dayton did generate some quality second-half scoring chances. Like it unfolded all season, UD had success funneling balls to the wide side of the field so Sheldon could dribble-drive down the flank and use her left foot to pepper the SLU goal boxes with dangerous out-swinging crosses. She did that with repeated success, but the Flyers were unable to time their runs or place a quality redirect on frame over the last 30 minutes of play. Marlee Taylor missed a great scoring chance in the 79th minute after forcing the SLU goalkeeper out of position and away from the net, but her unbalanced and outstretched shot rolled just wide of the goal. Sheldon found a back-post runner late in the game with a great chance to cut the deficit to 4-3 with about five minutes remaining, but the redirect was mis-timed. The Bills salted away the remaining moments to end UD's season.

SLU did a nice job of bottling up Itala Gemelli and limiting her touches to only those outside the box. The 2021 A10 Offensive Player of the Year had a couple moments cutting across the field for a big windup, but most of those opportunities were from distance.

Second half stats were won by Dayton, 8-6 on shots and 4-2 on corner kicks. Like past matches against SLU however, the Bills force opponents into mistakes and once again that played out on Friday afternoon. Dayton has suffered an array of miscues, handballs in the box, and other oddities that have gotten in the way of beating their conference rival in recent seasons. Good teams make opponents pay for those mistakes and while that was once again true in this game, Saint Louis also played a slightly more steady and consistent brand of soccer over 90 minutes and were probably the better team. Still, the gap continues to close as Eric Golz' program steadily eats into the margin and narrows the differences to subtleties rather than large swaths of discrepant talent.

Dayton also returns the bulk of the roster for next season including Gemelli, Sheldon, Taylor, Navarro-Leon, Huber, and Mackenzie Lutz. All six have earned All-A10 Honors at some point in their careers. After facing SLU six times in just one calendar year, there's no secret about where UD must improve -- speed and physicality. Upgrading those two areas to more parts of the field will give the Flyers more than just a fighting chance in 2022 -- they might be the co-favorite.

C. M. Rieman | Publisher | 937.361.4630 | Get the latest here:

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