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WSOC: Dayton Survives Pesky Rhode Island 2-0
WSOC: Dayton Survives Pesky Rhode Island 2-0
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
Smile WSOC: Dayton Survives Pesky Rhode Island 2-0

The UD women's soccer team closed out the regular season with a 2-0 victory over the Rhode Island Rams on Sunday afternoon at Baujan Field. Dayton built a 1-0 halftime lead and got a late goal in the 88th minute to end the drama after a second half of near-misses by both teams. The Flyers improve to 14-3-1 (8-2-0) while the Rams fall to 3-9-6 (2-5-3) and complete their season after failing to qualify for the 8-team A10 Tournament. Dayton secures the #2 seed in the bracket -- hosted by top-seeded Saint Louis.

Sunny skies, temperatures in the low-70s, and only a brisk wind to contend with made conditions nearly ideal for late October as both teams found early success generating dangerous scoring opportunities in the offensive third. Sporting pink jerseys to recognize breast cancer awareness month, UD was active moments after kickoff yet needed a quality save from goalkeeper Batoul Reda after URI settled the ball and took a shot from long distance. If nothing else, Rhody's early chance rang Dayton's bell and was a foreshadow of things to come.

The Flyers settled in however and pushed forward with service down the flanks to expose gaps in the Ram back line. A couple offside calls thwarted those opportunities but the persistence eventually paid off just 12 minutes into the match after Itala Gemelli sent long-ball service to the weak post where Noel Blain settled with her feet inside the Rhody goal box. Blain went far post with a slotted ball to give Dayton the early 1-0 advantage. The sequence was well-crafted and executed.

The next 15 minutes consisted of back-and-forth play between the boxes as neither side developed notable shots on goal that challenged the opposing goalkeepers. Jess Sheldon twisted an ankle on a tackle while tracking back in the defensive third and exited the game in the 30th minute. She would not return. Losing her speed and quickness along the perimeter required some adjustment in the Flyer offense. Diana Benigno missed the last match but came off the bench to shore up the central midfield in limited minutes, attempting to move the possession pocket forward with quality distribution. The Dayton link-ups were sporadic at best and the most dangerous moments came in 1v1 situations.

Gemelli had UD's next quality scoring chance around the 30th minute after settling and shooting at the weak side of the URI goal box, but her shot hit the post to keep the score 1-0. Mairin Wessner followed it up with a great chance in the same spot on the field in the 39th minute but could not convert. The last half hour of play was characterized by a benign comfortability as UD was the stronger side and had better scoring chances, but never dominated in a manner fans would expect a 13-win team to dominate against a 3-win opponent. While buildup was solid at times, too little materialized once Dayton approached the URI goal box. Reda was forced to make another huge save in the final minute of the half to preserve the 1-0 lead at intermission.

Halftime stats favored UD in shots 8-7 but the Rams put three shots on goal compared to just one for the Flyers. URI also held a 2-0 lead in corner kicks.

Reda was forced to make another diving save less than a minute after the restart as Dayton nearly flirted with disaster from more passive-aggressiveness. Wessner nearly gave the Flyers some breathing room in the 53rd minute, but a kick-save kept her far-post shot from finding the back of the net. Gemelli had a terrific 1v1 chance in the 61st minute on a shoulder-to-shoulder sprint, but her shot was deflected by the URI goalkeeper at the 12yd line.

On the other end of the field, the Rams continued to do just enough to keep Dayton's defense on its toes. Several moments proved unnerving as UD clung to a 1-0 lead and operated just one gaff away from a tied match. Dayton almost doubled the lead in the 65th minute but once again hit the post and could not capitalize on the rebound. The Rams once again countered with several great scoring opportunities inside the Flyer goal box over the last 10 minutes of the game, forcing UD to pucker up and avoid late-game calamity.

Alicia Donley finally ended the suspense in the 88th minute after tucking a loose ball to the near post on a Flyer corner kick. That made it a 2-0 final score. Second half stats were even at 8-8 while UD earned a 6-3 advantage in corner kicks.

The Flyers got the victory but couldn't shake a malaise that's dominated large stretches of matches against lesser foes this year. UD hit the goalpost multiple times and could have scored three or four goals, but might have surrendered multiple goals were Reda not there to make important saves -- she was the player of the game on Sunday. By comparison, Saint Louis throttled Rhode Island by a 6-0 score just 10 days prior and that's ultimately the bar UD is trying to hurdle. Separating the #1 and #2 A10 Tournament seeds is as much killer instinct and consistency as it is raw talent and ability. Head Coach Eric Golz' squad has a week to find that sense of urgency and narrow the gap.

The A10 Quarterfinals begin on Fri/Sat Oct. 28/29th with Quarterfinal matches hosted by the higher seed. That means the Flyers will host with an opportunity to punch their ticket to Saint Louis.

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

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