Sports

Etzel ’19 blanks Big Green in Ivy opener for women’s soccer

Bears draw valuable experience from tie with Sacred Heart, shut out Dartmouth on road

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, September 26, 2016

The women’s soccer team opened its Ivy League schedule with a trip to Hanover to take on Dartmouth Sunday. But before that match, Bruno (5-1-3, 1-0 Ivy) had to stay focused on its mid-week opponent: Sacred Heart. True to form, the defensively minded Bears did not allow a goal on the weekend and only notched one of their own. But that tally came when it mattered most, allowing the team to cap an undefeated week with its first conference win.

Despite the draw against SHU, Head Coach Kia McNeill remained positive when discussing the team’s overall performance. “We didn’t have as many shots on goal that I would like to have, but we were generating opportunities on goal, which is really impressive with our group. In the past couple games, we have struggled to even create opportunities, so the next step is putting these opportunities away and putting them on goal to challenge the goalkeepers.”

But as McNeill noted, while many players rifled hard shots toward the goal throughout the game, none of these opportunities found the back of the net.

The Bears took 27 shots and eight corner kicks over the course of the contest, and at least by the numbers, the Big Red turned out a similar performance, taking 20 shots and five corner kicks.

Against Dartmouth (6-3-0, 0-1) Sunday, Bruno seemed to have learned from this experience. In the 43rd minute, Brown midfielder Kate Maher ’19 slotted a shot past Dartmouth’s Casey Cousineau to score the first goal of her career and give the Bears the 1-0 lead. Maher had only been on the field for two minutes as a late-half substitute for Brown.

“The first half of the game was probably the best 45 minutes of soccer that this team has put together — a complete 45 minutes,” McNeill said. “We have seen bits and pieces up to this point, but I think the first half was incredible — keeping the ball, being patient, working the ball around, our team defending” and communicating.

Heading into the second half with a narrow lead and a rallying Dartmouth team, the Bears had a difficult 45 minutes ahead of them before they could claim the season’s first Ivy League win. Throughout the course of the second half, the Big Green fired seven shots at goalie Christine Etzel ’19, but each of them was batted away or missed the goal, disturbed by the defensive pressure applied by Bruno’s lock-down back line.

Accordingly, the Bears were able to maintain their one-goal lead through the end of the second half for their first conference victory. And, once again, Etzel ended the game racking a clean sheet — her eighth on the season.

“Christine has been incredible for us,” McNeill said. “She had a great season last year as well, but her emergence as a leader on this team and her communication has really been incredible.”

According to the NCAA rankings as of Sunday morning, Etzel ranks in the top four nationally of all goalkeepers in shutouts, save percentage and goals against average. In the Bears’ record books, Etzel moved to third all-time in single-season shutouts, edging ever closer to the current leader, Kathy Kostic ’87.

The Bears will continue their season with their second conference opponent, hosting Columbia Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Then, Bruno will travel to Princeton exactly one week later to face the Tigers Oct. 8.

This will be the first week in the 2016 season in which the Bears do not have a mid-week match. The added practice time will be valuable for the Bears to hone their offensive tactics, prepare for their next matchup and — most importantly — recharge from the high volume of out-of-conference match play that has characterized the early portion of their 2016 campaign.

“As a staff, we really try to take it one game at a time. We’ll enjoy this win today and get back at it tomorrow,” McNeill said. “We just need to continue to build off of this game: the opportunities we created in the game, our patience and composure in the final third and just to continue to gain chemistry and confidence in the final third with one another.”