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WSOC: UD Tops Richmond 3-1 in Quarterfinals; Will Host A10 Tourney
WSOC: UD Tops Richmond 3-1 in Quarterfinals; Will Host A10 Tourney
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
10-31-2021
Smile WSOC: UD Tops Richmond 3-1 in Quarterfinals; Will Host A10 Tourney

The UD Women's Soccer team took full advantage of A10 regular season champion VCU's loss in the A10 Tourney Quarterfinals, earning the right to host the Semis and Finals as the highest remaining seed after outlasting Richmond 3-1 in a competitive and physical match on Sunday afternoon at Baujan Field. Dayton broke a 1-1 halftime tie with two goals in the second half and will play #3 Saint Louis on Friday Nov. 5th at 4pm. The Flyers improve their record to 12-5-2 (8-2) while the Spiders end the season at 7-10-1 (5-5-0).

Head Coach Eric Golz's squad had a lot to play for on a largely overcast, breezy, and typically cool late October afternoon as two things were at stake: a ticket to the A10 semifinals and an opportunity to fight the A10 championship on home turf after the Rams were upset by #8 St. Joseph's at home just a day prior. As the match got underway, UD wasted no time attempting to turn those goals into fruition.

Dayton did well to push forward in the opening 10 minutes, finding space to roam along the touch lines and looking often to the speedy feet of Jess Sheldon to leverage her dribble-drive overtakes. Sheldon dumped several quality crosses in the box, including a perfect lob to Marlee Taylor challenging near the left post. Taylor's well-timed run afforded her a perfect redirect opportunity that beat the Spider goalkeeper to put the Flyers up 1-0 just six minutes after kickoff. It was a perfect start for the Flyers, and perhaps the first step toward breaking the will of Richmond early in the match to snuff out any thoughts of an upset.

Richmond wanted none of that defeatist thinking however.

The Spiders rebounded well and upped their game as the first half continued. While UD continued to create more dangerous chances inside the goal box from quantity of service, the Flyer defense was also dangerous in the other half of the field -- which was a problem. Richmond increased their tempo and began winning tackles and loose-ball challenges in the central third, allowing for effective counters with UD marks oftentimes in retreat and/or out of position. The defending was also hampered by a severe case of the yips over the next 10 minutes of the half, strait-jacketing Dayton's ability to play out of the back line and build possession moving forward. Errant touches, poor clearances that kept the danger around, and hospital passes that were picked off and turned into Richmond counter-attacks were the main culprits slowing Dayton's play.

The finger on the hot stove finally burned flesh in the 25th minute when UD suffered another sloppy series of touches that UR countered with near the left corner of the UD box. Loose marks and a lack of physical posture gave the Spiders the latitude they needed to beat Madelyn Dewey at the right post to tie the match at 1-1. Richmond had several dangerous scoring chances leading up to the goal so the subsequent score felt somewhat foregone given Dayton's struggling form in the defensive third.

UD's efforts were made all the more difficult when Hannah Osland went down with a lower leg/knee injury and was taken off the field. She did not reappear and her status remains unknown.

The last 20 minutes of the half were more evenly played as the Richmond bench turned vocal and cheered on their squad after every loose-ball victory, pumping additional energy into their teammates on the field. Dayton had to work diligently to keep pace -- sometimes with not enough pace -- as UR played and postured like equals over the middle portion of the half.

UD slowly began to clean up the defensive miscues and sloppy play in the final 10 minutes and that helped the Flyers take some self-inflicted pressure off their goal box. Conversely, it also helped the offense build momentum by linking passes out of the back, to the mids, and eventually to forwards making diagonal runs. By halftime however the match remained deadlocked at 1-1.

First half stats favored UD in shots (11-6) and corner kicks (4-2).

Based on first half play, neither team looked like they could keep the other out of net for an entire 45 minutes based on loose marks, miscues, and poor clearances. In the first 15 minutes of the second half, it was Dayton struggling to keep pace and looking like they might surrender the first goal after halftime. The defensive bugaboos returned and caused all sorts of problems in and around the Flyer goal box. Clearances went down Broadway instead of to the touch lines, distribution was weak-footed and often never met targets, and Spider counter-attacks with physicality and purpose challenged Dayton's ability to defend on the run. The mistakes almost cost UD several times, including a pair of Richmond chances helped primarily by UD defensive gaffs that should have been routine clearances but weren't.

Fortunately, Dayton made an early second half chance count after Laney Huber counter-attacked into space and slotted a ball to the far post to put the Flyers up 2-1 in the 62nd minute -- a goal that put the Flyers back in the lead but also took some pressure away.

Richmond worked hard to even the match once again, but this time the Flyers were better prepared. The Spiders' best chances came before the 70th minute but as the last 20 minutes of regulation approached, Dayton was already starting to clean up play, tighten up defensively, squeeze UR's defense, and overtake control of the match for good. The biggest driver in the turnaround was the back line's re-emergence and rediscovery of quality touches on the ball. The distribution was more assertive, pace was much faster and afforded players more time to make the right decision, and clearances less dramatic and far more purposeful and emphatic. It rubbed off everywhere else on the field.

Like night and day, UD suddenly found much success building possession out of the back line, oftentimes through Yaiza Navarro Leon's feet as the defensive midfielder remained a vital conduit in transition. Alicia Donley came up huge as well and got stronger as the match went on, using her size advantage to post up like Bill Russell for entry passes with her back to goal. Even 40 yards out, her ability to shield defenders and create a safe passing lane with holding ability on the ball was a vital part of UD's turnaround over the final 20 minutes.

As UD began to dominate, Richmond started to tire. After defending several dangerous balls and crosses in the box, they finally cracked for good in the 87th minute when Itala Gemelli took a lobbed ball over the top from Mackenzie Lutz and shook the last defender off like a flea. With only the Richmond goalkeeper left to beat, she shook her loose as well -- juking left and a couple touches later finishing the job into a completely unguarded net for the 3-1 advantage. The late goal was well-earned insurance and left no doubt about the outcome.

Second half stats were dominated by Dayton, largely a reflection of the final 20 minute of outstanding play that followed an up-and-down performance up to that point. Shots were 11-3 and corner kicks were 3-1. For the match, UD put 11 shots on frame compared to just three for the Spiders.

The win propels UD into the A10 Semifinals and a rematch with A10 nemesis Saint Louis next Friday at Baujan Field. The Billikens topped UD 1-0 at Hermann Stadium during the regular season, but the match was evenly played. The Flyers have an honest chance, but they must piece together a full 90 minutes of quality soccer -- probably their best soccer of the season -- to shake off Sloo and compete for an A10 title on Sunday. The Bills have one of the best defenses in the A10, but Dayton has Gemelli and Sheldon and they don't.
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