DANIEL ISLAND, SC August 22, 2014 – The College of Charleston women’s soccer team opened its 2014 season in dominant fashion with a comprehensive, 4-0 handling of Alabama State at Blackbaud Stadium on Friday afternoon.
The Cougars (1-0) controlled virtually every facet of the game and enjoyed long spells of possession en route to the convincing victory. By the time the dust settled, the Cougars led 30-2 in shots, 16-1 in shots on goal, and 10-1 in corner kicks.
“I was real impressed with a lot of aspects of our game,” said head coach Christian Michner. “Typical of a first game, with a lot of new players into the lineup, there were some nerves which were evident over the first 10-12 minutes. But, we created lots of chances; their goalkeeper, I thought, did an excellent job of making some really great saves throughout the match. But, credit to my team for focusing and putting some goals away.”
The Cougars, with 13 newcomers on the roster, enjoyed an immediate insurgence by their freshman as Hannah Huizenga and Mary Kate Bowers took five of Cougars’ first six shot attempts and registered the first two goals of the season. At the final whistle, the pair combined for 12 of CofC’s 30 shots and put 10 on target.
Senior Sarah Cardamone also made her presence felt and ended the contest with two goals and an assist to bolster her already-impressive career numbers.
As the match began to take its shape with the Cougars in the clear ascendancy, Charleston found the back of the net on the second shot attempt of the match in the 15th minute. Cardamone gained possession in the attacking third and slotted Huizenga through the top of the penalty area and Huizenga – showing no signs of timidity though just moments into her first collegiate match – beat the keeper to the lower-left corner.
“Initially I was really nervous,” said Huizenga, “but this team does a really good job of making you feel welcome and comfortable and giving positive energy, even if you make a mistake. It was fun to get out there, and it makes me exciting for the season because I know we’re only going to get better from here.”
Just under two minutes of game clock later, the Cougars earned their first cornerkick and Cardamone slung a bending ball into the crowd where junior Claire Newman elevated to head the ball towards goal, but her attempt rattled off the crossbar. The rebound fell gratuitously to Bowers, who hammered home the opportunity with poise to birth an early 2-0 lead.
As the Cougars continued to apply pressure throughout the first half, Cardamone played a ball over the top of the back line to Huizenga to place the Duluth, Ga., native in a threatening position in the penalty area, leaving the only recourse for the Hornet defense being to tackle her inside the box. The referee awarded the Cougars a penalty kick, and Cardamone opportunistically punched it into the left corner for the ninth goal of her career.
Less than three minutes into the second period, the Cougars extended their lead when Hornet keeper Kylee Hathaway made one of her 11 saves of the match on attempt by Bowers, but was unable to control the rebound and Cardamone punished her with her second goal of the match.
Senior Taylor Avery got the starting nod in goal and played 76 minutes without allowing a goal, though she was hardly tested. She was, however, effective in organizing her defense and up to the challenge when asked to play a ball with her feet.
Lauren Killian replaced her in the waning moments of the match, and made a dazzling save on the only on-frame attempt from the ASU attackers. The shot came inside the 90th minute when Alexandria Cannon, a first-team all-SWAC selection, collected the ball around the penalty and rifled an attempt on goal, but Killian made a diving save to her left to preserve the blank sheet.
On a sweltering day in which the heat index eclipsed 102 degrees Fahrenheit, the Cougars proved themselves to be the much fitter team as fatigue certainly ran its course. Despite the conditions, Michner got a full 90 minutes of playing time out of Newman, Allie Sender, Hope Walker, Riley Narum, and Rio Speller-Drews, while 16 players in total checked into the game.
The Cougars will utilize the USL Pro’s Charleston Battery’s pitch once more when they play host to intracity rival Charleston Southern on Sunday at 7 p.m. at Blackbaud. The match will mark the 21st renewal of the Silver Cup, the prize for the crosstown rivalry which dates back to 1993.
The Cougars have dominated the series with a 13-3-4 record and possession of the Cup since 1996. The match – especially given the location – will be reminiscent of Michner’s initial head coaching victory, which he earned in a come-from-behind, 3-2 victory over the Buccaneers at Blackbaud in 2010.
“The Silver Cup is always a difficult match,” said Michner. “They always pose a difficult test for us. We’re lucky to play on such an amazing pitch here. We know the game is going to be a tough one for us. Sunday games in particular are a test of fitness. The fitter team, and the team that works extremely hard, is the one that will come out on top. I expect it will be us.”