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WSOC: Flyers Earn 2-0 Shutout over George Mason in A10 Opener
WSOC: Flyers Earn 2-0 Shutout over George Mason in A10 Opener
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
09-22-2019
Smile WSOC: Flyers Earn 2-0 Shutout over George Mason in A10 Opener

The A10 conference schedule began on Sunday afternoon and it was an opportunity for the Dayton Flyers to hit the reset button and start fresh after a disappointing 2-5-1 non-conference record. Head Coach Eric Golz' squad answered the challenge with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over George Mason on a sun-drenched September afternoon at Baujan Field. A goal in each was the difference as UD improves to 3-5-1 (1-0-0) while the Patriots fall to 2-5-1 (0-1-0).

The Flyers came into the match off the heels of a 1-0 victory over Eastern Michigan last week and were looking to not only get A10 play off to a good start but also piece together their first winning streak of the 2019 season. The overall play through eight matches ran hot and cold as the Flyers lacked consistency on both sides of the ball when close matches were decided by minor details. The Patriots were a good first test to begin conference play but UD was ready.

Playing into a strong headwind to start the match, the Flyers were forced to adjust their playing style to account for the windy conditions. In the first minutes after kickoff, George Mason took advantage and with the help from the strong breeze pushed forward and made it difficult for the Flyers to counter-attack in the other direction. With most of the play in UD's defensive half of the field, the Flyers eventually countered when space finally opened along the right flanks. Micayla Livingston got loose in the Patriot goal box and attacked head-on as GMU goalkeeper Louisa Moser was forced to challenge from goal. After a deflection, Livingston collected the rebound and her second effort punched the ball into an open net for the 1-0 Dayton advantage just 10 minutes into the match.

An early lead has not been a familiar position for the Flyers this year so how the team would respond playing out in front would prove interesting to the devoted soccer fans in attendance. In short, UD did quite well and battled both GMU's best scoring threats and the unforgiving winds to hold on for the 1-0 halftime lead. In between Livingston's goal and the halftime whistle, UD had a couple additional chances to extend the lead -- including a dangerous ball directly in front of the box that went untouched by a Flyer teammate. Defensively, UD remained organized in the back line and GK Carly Becker did a nice job of being vocal by barking out commands to ensure marks and spacing were as they needed to be.

Halftime stats favored GMU in shots 6-4 while UD held the edge in corner kicks 2-1. There were just three saves overall so it was mostly a defensive matchup with lots of back-and-forth between the goal boxes but few high-level shots that forced big moments from the goalkeepers.

As the second half started, the next goal might ultimately decide the match. Were the Flyers to go up 2-0, they might take the wind out of George Mason's sails and put enough distance between victory and an improbable Patriot comeback. Conversely, were GMU to tie things at 1-1, match momentum would swing in their direction and perhaps Dayton would start questioning their own confidence to respond accordingly and generate the game-winner.

Dayton didn't waste very long answering those questions as Alexis Goins slipped behind the GMU back line in the 50th minute, poked a ball at the GMU goalkeeper, then finished off the deflection to an open net for the 2-0 Flyer lead on a near carbon-copy sequence from Livingston's first half tally.

With some breathing room, UD had 40 minutes to protect their own defensive half of the field, limit the mental gaffs that plagued their non-con results, and salt the clock away with some good old-fashioned keep-away. And with the wind at their backs, all of these things seemed more likely than not.

The Flyers found room on the flanks to continue applying pressure on the GMU back line. UD's best opportunities came along the left flank when playing service to freshman speedster Jessica Sheldon. Sheldon turned into Dayton's super sub and in limited minutes caused fits for GMU's right fullbacks as she challenged the baseline, drew fouls, and put excellent crosses into the Patriot goal box. She encountered enough shirt-tugs, grabs, and foot hatchets to last two or three matches but nevertheless played through the contact. When the Flyers worked the ball her direction, good things usually happened.

The UD midfield also did a better job of providing service to the wing players along the touch lines, but the Flyer back line deserved some credit too for swinging the gate left and right after corralling possession to exploit the weak side of the field. Lexy Kidd, Mackenzie Lutz, and Jordan Pauley were stubborn when they needed to be and also helped feed service to the mids lurking near the center circle. As the second half continued, neither team completely dominated the run of play but UD continued to do just enough to remain in good shape.

To their credit, GMU turned up the heat in the last 15 minutes of regulation and for extended stretches had the better scoring opportunities. Dayton had trouble clearing several balls away and the Patriots collected those rebounds for additional service into the Flyer goal box. Some untimely UD fouls just outside the goal box also afforded GMU additional free kicks that threatened the net. There were three or four scary moments but the defense held tough and did just enough to boot those Patriot chances away. With just a few minutes remaining, the Flyers were playing for the shutout and ultimately got what they fought for.

Overall, GMU outshot UD 10-9 but shots on goal were 4-3 in favor of the Flyers. Other stats were mostly even as well -- as was the match. The run of play went back and forth and each team had moments of superiority. The difference was finishing inside the box and Dayton took advantage of their few chances while the Patriots squandered those opportunities. Sunday's result was the kind of match the Flyers lost in the non-conference season -- results based on the fine details where margins are thin and chances often few and far between. Knowing UD's offense capitalized on their scoring opportunities bodes well heading into the next match.

Dayton will try to make it three wins in a row with a Thursday evening contest against Rhode Island. Kickoff is 7:30p at Baujan Field.
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