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WSOC: Huber's Late Goal Tops Louisville 2-1 in Heatwave
WSOC: Huber's Late Goal Tops Louisville 2-1 in Heatwave
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
Smile WSOC: Huber's Late Goal Tops Louisville 2-1 in Heatwave

The UD women’s soccer team nursed a 1-0 halftime lead over Louisville Cardinals, surrendered the tying goal after intermission, then found paydirt against the run of play in the 86th minute to sneak out of Baujan Field with the 2-1 victory on Thursday evening. Laney Huber scored the dramatic game-winner as the Flyers improve to 3-0-0 while the Cards fall to 0-2-1.

In a match that moved kickoff back an hour to 8pm to combat the heat and humidity, Thursday’s tangle might come down to fitness, grit, and good timing as much as technical execution.

It was Louisville that showcased early command as the Cardinals won possession in the midfield and found open space to move forward with passes and dribble-drives. The Flyers were a step slow to both fight for loose balls and track back and recover, allowing the Cards to take advantage and be the first squad to challenge the goal mouth. Despite the early struggle to find pace and rhythm, it was UD that struck first on a counter-attack against the run of play.

Kyra Karfonta put the Flyers up 1-0 in the 7th minute after a long-distance blast from outside the box went top-side over the Cardinal goalkeeper expecting a cross in front of the box and cheating off her line. And it probably was an intended cross, but they all count the same. The tally took some pressure off the slow start and gave Dayton a chance to start anew with a one-goal lead.

The overall flow was largely unchanged after the restart however. Louisville almost tied the match about 10 minutes later after a sloppy defensive clearance set up a loose-ball shot that Flyer GK Batoul Reda denied with a diving save at the right post.

Graduate senior Laney Huber almost made it 2-0 shortly thereafter with a chest trap and half-volley that pinged off the crossbar. The near-miss would be Dayton’s best remaining scoring opportunity of the half.

The Cardinals enjoyed favorable run of play after the mandatory hydration break with 20 minutes left in the first half. A pair of additional dangerous scoring chances directly in front of the UD goal box looked destined to even the match at 1-1, but the Flyers did just enough to turn the opportunities away. The trouble spots were often self-inflicted as communication and assertiveness on the initial challenges were short of the mark. Reda came up huge with a diving save followed by a lunging challenge to stop a terrific Louisville scoring chance with five minutes remaining in the half.

First half stats were indicative of the run of play as UL dominated in shots on goal (6-1) while earning the only two corner kicks.

The Cardinals started strong after the restart, forcing Reda to clean up a bunch of dangerous balls in the Flyer goal box. She needed more preventive maintenance from her fullbacks and midfielders to eliminate some of that pressure before it reached the back of the box, but by and large wasn’t getting the help she needed. UD almost capitalized on a poor Louisville goal kick to double the lead moments later, but Huber’s pickoff and dribble-drive back on goal was snuffed out at the last second. It was a scoring opportunity needing a finish as Huber had a full step and only the goalkeeper to beat, but the missed chance was a continuation of 1v1 struggles from most players throughout the pitch. She followed it up with another near-miss about a minute later, then missed a PK to compound the misery.

Those missing scoring chances hurt even more when Louisville tied the match at 1-1 in the 59th minute with a redirected finish inside the UD goal box. By this point the Flyers looked slow, timid, and unable to put in the sweat equity required to control the tenor of the match.

The final 20 minutes remained a struggle as UD did damage control to thwart dangerous Cardinals scoring opportunities in the UD defensive half of the field. On the other end, Karli Ferguson had a great opportunity to finish a game-winner in front of the box, but she squibbed the shot and was unable to push it past the UL goalkeeper. The final 10 minutes were anxiety-driven for the fans while the players were dripping off their final pounds of sweat from the extreme conditions. The next goal would certainly win the match and Louisville looked like the fresher team to break the deadlock for good.

Yet it was Huber that ultimately changed everything in the 86th minute after Diana Benigno and Marlee Taylor teamed up for a cross to the far left post. Huber charged hard and toe-poked it past a defender and the goalkeeper from 5yds out to give Dayton the 2-1 lead and eventual game-winner. No one struggled more with execution on Thursday than the fifth-year senior, but Huber didn’t quit on the play and turned a half-chance into the game-winner to wash away much of that frustration; it only takes one opportunity to turn things right-side up again. The Flyers stalled out the last four minutes of the match to pocket the victory and remain undefeated and untied on the season.

Second half stats were relatively even as UL won the battle of shots 8-7 and corner kicks 2-1. The final 45 minutes were similar to the first half of play where the Cardinals were the better team on and off the ball, but Dayton created the more dangerous goal-scoring chances and had cleaner looks at the net. Unfortunately, UD struggled to finish all night. Beyond the missed PK, there were three or four other squandered looks directly in front of the box and those finishes could have broken Louisville’s spirit long before the final whistle.

It was far from UD’s best effort in both effort and execution as the Cardinals often had their way with Dayton when challenging 50/50 balls both high and low. The UD mids and forwards had no luck digging possession out of 1v1 jousts which were all-the-more aggravating at times as the Flyer back line begged for assistance to take pressure off the need to defend so much. But the back line had their struggles too and were often caught out of shape and chasing. Loose marking in the box – especially at the far post – almost resulted in UL goals as well. That said, Reda was terrific once again and commanded her box with soft hands and a dominant performance on anything dangerous above her shoulders. In three matches thus far, she’s yet to concede a goal from her own mistake.

Freshman Maddie Bowman came off the bench with a strong 52 minutes in the attack, providing UD some much-needed spunk and ball-challenging prowess. While she didn’t stuff the stat sheet, her energy and posture might have been the difference between winning and losing because she was everything the Flyers were lacking for long stretches. The coaching staff won’t forget it.

Style points don’t count in the standings and UD ultimately earned the victory in spite of the shortcomings -- which is a good sign moving forward because Dayton has come nowhere close to playing a complete 90 minutes thus far. The bottom line: they’ve found a way to notch three victories in three matches. The question: is this UD’s ceiling and what Flyer fans should get used to, or just a taste of things to come when Head Coach Eric Golz’ team figures it all out?

Dayton wraps up the four-game home stand with a match against Illinois on Sunday afternoon. Kickoff is 1pm.

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