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UD Tops St. Francis (PA) 3-0 for Golz' First Flyer Win
UD Tops St. Francis (PA) 3-0 for Golz' First Flyer Win
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
08-27-2017
Smile UD Tops St. Francis (PA) 3-0 for Golz' First Flyer Win

Senior Sidney LeRoy earned a goal and a helper over the first 45 minutes to provide a 2-0 halftime cushion that ultimately led to a 3-0 win over St. Francis (PA). Dayton's first win of the year was also Head Coach Eric Golz' first win as UD's skipper. The Flyers improve to 1-2-0 while the Red Flash fall to 0-3-0.

Looking to bounce back from inconsistent performances last week that led to a pair of road losses in North Carolina, Dayton opened the home portion of the 2017 schedule against NEC opponent St. Francis (PA) on a gorgeous sun-drenched Sunday afternoon at Baujan Field. Perfect weather conditions and a vocal home crowd set the stage for a strong Flyer start in the opening minutes of the first half.

Two early positives were apparent as the first half got underway: UD generated sustained possession of the ball and Alexis Kiehl had a number of touches at the top of Dayton's attack -- both pieces that were lacking in the two defeats to East Carolina and UNC-Wilmington. Good hustle was a key part of the turnaround as UD won its share of 50/50 challenges and turned that hard work into quality buildup in the offensive half of the field.

SFU had trouble dealing with the pace of play -- at least early on. The Flyers pressed up top and challenged the SFU back line into inaccurate passes or clearances that stymied their own ability to move forward and creat their own offense. Over the first 15 minutes, Dayton peppered the goal mouth with baseline crosses and midfield dribble-drives that created several good half-chances and a couple perfect looks at the net. Red Flash GK Julia Hernan came up big on a rocketed shot from Kiehl just outside the box that required a diving save to keep the match scoreless.

The consistent pressure kept Flyer fans optimistic however and UD eventually capitalized in the 19th minute when LeRoy put a free kick on frame, collected the rebound, and redirected the ball through traffic for a far-post goal that gave the Flyers their first lead of the season.

UD had several more chances to add to their lead, but SFU did just enough to hang on despite being overmatched in several areas of the field. The Flyers continued to push players forward and play direct soccer, culminating in a second goal in the 26th minute when Sara Robertson finished a goalkeeping blunder with an open-net header to make the score 2-0.

Dayton lost their shape at times over the last 20 minutes of the first half, struggling to play weak-side balls to players attempting to stretch the field on the opposing touch lines. As the play turned more predictable, SFU managed to win just enough important challenges to lock much of the play between the 18s and extended periods. The Red Flash couldn't manufacture anything offensively however and were mostly ineffective once they corralled the ball in the midfield. Credit the Flyer defense -- especially the outside backs -- for bottlenecking the SFU attack and dispossessing players altogether.

First half stats were all Dayton. Shots were 12-1 and corner kicks 4-0.

Intermission came at a good time for SFU and they regrouped with a much better second half effort that gave the Flyers some trouble. SFU's work rate improved significantly and they started winning more loose balls. They also generated meaningful possession at times and were able to move further up field to apply pressure in the Flyer goal box.

Conversely, Dayton was more tentative and a half-step slow for some reason. Things that came more easily in the first half were suddenly less so. St. Francis soon turned the run of play into an effective stalemate. What SFU lacked in natural ability they made up for with a solid work ethic near the center circle. They also applied more pressure to the Flyer back line. Suddenly, the Flyers needed to be cleaner and more precise to avoid trouble and sometimes they struggled doing just that. Off-the-ball movement -- issues prevalent in the first two games of the season -- was still problematic and limited UD's options when attempting to transition from defense to offense.

As a result, SFU had some chances to score and make things interesting. GK Kaelyn Johns came up big on a near-post scrum just inches from the goal line, while another ball was cleared off the line by a Flyer defender. In most cases, Dayton had a direct hand in SFU's buildup -- either from a giveaway, poor loose-ball challenge, or loose mark somewhere in the defensive half. To their credit however, SFU stepped up their game and had they played a full 90 minutes like the last 45, perhaps things would have been different.

By the 85th minute however, none of it ultimately mattered as UD earned a legitimate PK whistle and Kiehl polished it off for the 3-0 lead and her first goal of the year. The remaining minutes salted away without fuss.

St. Francis outshot UD 9-4 in the second half, while corner kicks were 2-2. Both teams had a hand in the more competitive final frame as UD lost an edge and SFU raised their level of play. The Red Flash did not possess dynamic playmakers capable of scaring most teams however, and will be hard-pressed to finish .500 this year. They have already been outscored 12-1 through three matches and that trend is likely to continue. That said, Dayton needed a taste of success and Sunday's victory was a good place to start.

Defender Nadia Pestell made easy work of her mark on Sunday, but also utilized her foot speed for those customary dribble-drives up the left touch line. Her crosses in the box continue to be among the best on the team and if the Flyers can talk her into some overlaps without the ball, she could be even more dangerous as a through-ball target while defenses are napping.

LeRoy did solid work in the midfield and used her frame to push bodies around. Thankfully, Alexis Kiehl finally got some touches at striker. Given the weak opposition however, it's still unclear whether much of that was UD's execution or simply a reflection of the opponent.

Dayton remains at home for a Friday match vs Marshall at 8pm -- the second game of a doubleheader with the Flyer men's soccer team.
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