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WSOC: Flyers Rally for 2-1 OT Win Over NKU
WSOC: Flyers Rally for 2-1 OT Win Over NKU
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
Smile WSOC: Flyers Rally for 2-1 OT Win Over NKU

The Dayton Flyers women's soccer team flirted with disaster for 80 minutes on Thursday night, but snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a late goal in regulation and penalty kick in extra time for the 2-1 OT win against Northern Kentucky. The victory maintains UD's perfect record (3-0-0) to start the season, while the Norse drop to 1-2-0.

Baujan Field played host to the first regular season game of the 2021 fall campaign, and with fans in the stands and students on the sidelines there was a feeling of normalcy for the first time in over 18 months. The afternoon thunderstorms that rolled through Dayton were both a blessing and a curse. The weather dropped the temperature from the low-90s in mid-afternoon to the low-70s by kickoff. It also soaked the field and made for a wet ball and slick boots as the precipitation ended as the match got underway.

Tennessee transfer Alicia Donley got the offense moving just moments after kickoff with a challenge down the right flank that resulted in a shot deflecting off the crossbar. From that point on however, UD's ability to generate and sustain effective play was a monumental struggle for the rest of the first half.

Northern Kentucky brought a solid game plan up I-75 and much of it focused on physically overpowering the Flyers on 1v1 battles and 50/50 challenges all over the pitch. Too often the jousts were won in NKU's favor as UD was either timid around the ball and backing away, a step slow, or getting pushed off the ball entirely.

If there was a silver lining over the first 25 minutes, it was NKU's lack of quality goal-scoring chances. The Norse slowly began to exert dominance in the central third in spite of the bottlenecks near the Flyer box, while Dayton lost the ability to differentiate yellow shirts from white ones when trying to link multiple passes together. At times the errant or weak passes were almost inexplicable and it felt like the Flyers were putting with woods and driving with putters.

There weren't many dangerous scoring chances by either side as the match continued, but NKU capitalized on a defensive mistake in the 38th minute to take the 1-0 lead. Problematic in the spring, UD was once again dispossessed 1v1 in their own defensive half and the loss of possession resulted in a walk-in against Flyer goalkeeper Madelyn Dewey. To NKU's credit, the long-distance shot to the corner post was well-struck, but Dayton took much of the blame for conceding the opportunity at all.

The last 10 minutes of the half were marginally better as UD restarted play facing a deficit for the first time this season, but the gains were mostly few and far between as NKU continued to exert their physical dominance and quicker reaction times to the ball. For most of the half the Flyer boots were stuck in quicksand with few sparks of emboldened urgency.

UD outshot NKU 5-3 in the first 45 minutes and neither goalkeeper recorded a save.

The second half restart was an opportunity to see if things said in the locker room translated to the pitch. In some ways perhaps and in others not so much. Dayton's spacing and movement off the ball improved in the first few minutes, but execution remained inept. Halftime couldn't shake UD's "happy feet" as sequences on the ball requiring 1- and 2-touch redirections or passes were still taking five or six touches and affording NKU unlimited time to put overwhelming numbers behind the ball. As a result, when the Norse swarmed, they usually had an extra player or two doing the work because Dayton lacked the clean and direct play to catch defenders flat-footed and retreating.

The middle 20 minutes of the second half finally started to pay off as UD generated a couple solid goal scoring opportunities and couple additional half-chances, but NKU goalkeeper and former Flyer Mimi Stines came up big with a pair of stops in front of her net. At other times, would-be dangerous opportunities were snuffed out as NKU defenders beat UD attacking players to the ball or pushed them off the ball for possession.

Enter Itala Gemelli.

With less than 10 minutes remaining, Gemelli -- last season's A10 Rookie of the Year -- did what she does best: make a difference. Coming off the bench in each half, Gemelli once again found herself on the field during crunch time. Like many Gemelli goals prior, she manufactured a far-post shot from the perimeter of the box and tucked it away to knot the match at 1-1 in the 82nd minute. It's what she does best: find the back of the net even in limited minutes and touches of the ball. Until her strike, the Flyers were on life support and NKU was salting the match away for the 1-0 road win.

With things now even, UD pushed hard in the last five minutes to win the match in regulation. Stines made two huge saves for the Norse in the final seconds including a diving tip at the far post with two seconds remaining to send the game into extra time.

Second half stats favored the Flyers with a 13-3 lead in shots and commanding 8-0 advantage in corner kicks. The problem? Most scoring opportunities were not on frame and didn't threaten.

The Flyers had some momentum however as both sides looked for a golden goal. The soccer never turned into a Picasso as UD's sloppiness on the ball, passing the ball, and playing off the ball continued to be a self-imposed straitjacket. If UD was every bit as responsible for NKU's first half goal however, the Law of Averages made a timely appearance and avenged it with a freak handball in the box by a Norse defender that gave the Flyers the chance they needed to make their great escape. Unlucky for NKU but well-struck by Lexy Kidd as she went top shelf to beat Stines and win the match 2-1 in the 93rd minute.

Overall shots were dominated by UD 23-6 but the run of play told a much different story as the Flyers were close to losing to a squad that competed harder and played better soccer. Shots on goal were a more competitive 7-3. UD won the battle of corner kicks 10-0 with all but one coming after halftime. Service from the corner flag was largely hit-and-miss.

Dayton got the much-needed victory to protect the home turf but the result belied the run of play for long stretches. The Norse probably felt like they did enough to win and rightly so. Thursday's lack of pace, sloppy touches, and standing around didn't cost the Flyers a victory but it's a mulligan they won't get away with again over the rest of the season. The good news is the season is young and there's no better time for a reminder that there are no days off and plays off at this level of college soccer. If the Flyers want to take that next step in the maturation of the program and get back to "the way it was", they cannot lose these kinds of matches anymore. The expectations are now higher. Dayton is much better than what they showcased on Thursday. Teams usually have to lose to get these important in-season lessons. The Flyers avoided that.

Someone had to make a play to flip the script and (thankfully) Itala Gemelli smells the back of the net like a shark smells blood. UD's challenge at Toledo on Sunday afternoon is to invest in more sweat equity early and often so the latter stages of the match are window dressing.

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

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