Keane Saves WVU After Forwards Fail To Finish Duquesne

Written by Ian Thomson

The West Virginia women’s soccer team streamed forward, chasing a last-gasp game-winner against Duquesne. Center-back Mallory Smith gathered the ball inside the center circle. Less than 20 seconds remained as the towering senior launched one final ball toward the visitors’ penalty area.

Smith’s attempt was blocked. Now Duquesne quickly countered against the short-handed Mountaineers’ defense with Stephanie Colon racing unobstructed through the inside-right channel toward goal.

Duquesne midfielder Stephanie Colon had the game’s outcome on her right foot with seconds remaining (Photo: Ian Thomson)

The announcer at Dick Dlesk Stadium began to count down the final 10 seconds of play as Colon neared the penalty area for a decisive 1-vs-1 with WVU goalkeeper Sara Keane. The moment evoked memories of ice hockey players gliding toward a goaltender during shootouts, such as Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby bearing down on the Buffalo Sabres’ Ryan Miller to end the National Hockey League’s 2008 Winter Classic.

Colon, a junior from Long Island, N.Y., crossed the 18-yard line and cocked back her right leg, preparing to pull the trigger as the scoreboard behind the goal ticked down to show five seconds remaining. She swung at the ball, sending it powerfully toward the near post. Keane reacted sprightly, diving to her left to push it behind for a corner kick that there was no time left to take. Game over. 1-1.

Thursday’s result edged the Mountaineers to a sluggish 2-3-2 record on the season and underlined that much work needs to be done offensively and defensively before Texas Tech come to Morgantown for WVU’s Big 12 Conference debut on Sept. 21.

West Virginia’s Pressure Doesn’t Translate To Goals

WVU tallied an astonishing 41 shots against Duquesne, but Kate Schwindel’s blast on 48 minutes was the only one to find the net during a frustrating tie for the hosts.

Kate Schwindel grabbed WVU’s equalizer on 48 minutes (Photo: Ian Thomson)

Head Coach Nikki Izzo-Brown’s front three, ably supported from midfield by Kara Blosser and Bri Rodriguez, pinned the Dukes back for most of the 90 minutes plus two 10-minute overtime periods. WVU forced 13 corners to one for the visitors, but their shooting accuracy deserted them. Only 13 attempts were on target.

Junior forward Frances Silva, the game-winner when West Virginia ended defending NCAA champion Stanford’s 64-game regular season win streak on Aug. 26, proved most culpable on the night. Just one of her 11 efforts forced a save from Duquesne goalkeeper Ashley Szalwinski.

The torrent of West Virginia attacks began on four minutes when freshman Kelsie Maloney’s cutback found Silva unmarked at the near post. The Overland Park, Kan. native slashed her shot high and wide from six yards. Maloney stepped inside from the left wing two minutes later to test Szalwinski after a good move involving Silva and Blosser.

WVU holding midfielder Amanda Hill mistimed her near-post flick from Schwindel’s precise inswinging corner on nine minutes, and Silva displayed her fast feet to work an opening on the right of the box one minute later before firing over the bar from 20 yards. She was off target again on 12 minutes, guiding a difficult glancing header wide from Schwindel’s cross.

Canadian international Bry McCarthy launched her first surge forward from left-back on 16 minutes to test Duquesne’s defense with a teasing cross. Defender Abby Weber got a vital touch to nod the ball away from Schwindel.

Duquesne Punish Lapse From Mountaineers’ Back Line

Izzo-Brown spent a chunk of the pre-game warm-up working with her defense to coordinate their movement when the opposition’s center-forward receives the ball. Duquesne striker Morgan Herbert turned the simulation into reality on 17 minutes when she dropped deep, finding space to turn and dribble around center-back Smith. Freshman defender Leah Emaus made a key interception to prevent Herbert from slipping the ball in behind for right-winger Caroline Lacy.

WVU’s Amanda Hill (left) and Duquesne’s goalscorer Paige Maroney (Photo: Ian Thomson)

One symptom of McCarthy’s willingness to attack is that it leaves gaps in WVU’s defense. Paige Maroney exploited this on 20 minutes after her exquisite turn away from Hill in midfield gave her room to pick out Lacy in space on the right. The freshman snatched at her shot, driving the ball high and wide from 20 yards when she had time to carry it closer to goal.

The visitors were beginning to create the clearer chances as Herbert’s running with the ball in the final third threatened a WVU back line that seemed too far behind its midfield. Lacy skipped around McCarthy on 25 minutes before delivering a low cross toward the near post. Herbert sprinted across Smith to reach it, but she skied her shot from six yards. It was a glaring miss.

Schwindel and Blosser passed up chances at the other end as West Virginia sought to regain control, and Silva half-heartedly appealed for a penalty on 30 minutes after a challenge by Kathleen Wolff. Referee Terry Vaughn, who gained a reputation for awarding dubious penalties in Major League Soccer last year, ignored the claim.

The Dukes went ahead on 38 minutes after a defensive breakdown that has typified WVU’s season. Herbert worked her way into space again as the hosts’ back line fell out of sync, and she slid the ball between Smith and right-back Jess Crowder for supporting midfielder Maroney. The 5-foot-4-inch senior took a touch before rifling her shot past Keane from 15 yards.

Schwindel Leads The Charge As WVU Pour Forward

West Virginia outshot their opponents 15-7 in the first half. The balance tipped further in their favor after the interval as Izzo-Brown’s girls grabbed a quick equalizer and pushed for the win. The second half saw WVU chalk up 19 goal attempts to Duquesne’s four, while winning nine corners and conceding none.

Schwindel sent a dangerous ball across the six-yard box that deserved to find a teammate attacking it on 47 minutes. The Livingston, N.J., native was on the end of the move one minute later that tied the game.

Maloney had the first chance when put clear in the penalty area by Rodriguez. The freshman, still searching for her first non-exhibition goal, shot tamely at Szalwinski. Schwindel drilled the ball into the roof of the net from 16 yards after Duquesne failed to clear the rebound.

WVU’s Kara Blosser became an attacking threat as the game progressed (Photo: Ian Thomson)

WVU’s offensive options began to multiply as Blosser and Rodriguez made frequent darting runs toward the penalty box, interchanging with Schwindel and Silva in the final third and stretching the Dukes’ defense. Hill missed a near-identical flick from another excellent Schwindel corner on 53 minutes, and the 5’9” Blosser headed a follow-up corner wide of target.

Maloney fired another shot straight at Szalwinski on 57 minutes, and Schwindel skipped around the goalkeeper on the left of the box five minutes later after chasing down a long ball. Her cross sailed inches ahead of Silva with the goal gaping.

Schwindel was on a crusade to put her team in front. Last season’s Big East Rookie of the Year collected the ball at the left corner of the box on 68 minutes with one thought in mind. She skipped inside her marker before thumping a right-foot drive off a helpless Szalwinski’s crossbar.

Blosser, dominant in the air in midfield despite playing with a facial injury, began to assert herself offensively at corner kicks. She connected with two McCarthy inswingers, but couldn’t steer either header on target.

Herbert and Maroney remained a nuisance to WVU’s defense on the increasingly infrequent occasions when they received the ball. Duquesne could have stolen a win in the final minute of regulation time when those two combined after Lacy stripped the ball from Crowder. Maroney fired well off target from 16 yards.

Profligate Finishing Continues In Overtime

The pattern continued during the two periods of sudden-death overtime: Excellent build-up play from West Virginia that fell down around the penalty area due to the lack of incisive finishing, and the occasional defensive lapse that threatened to further undermine their good work.

Szalwinski beat away Silva’s shot at the near post three minutes into overtime, yet the Dukes ended the first period with its best chance. Crowder made a vital block at the back post to deny Bridget Lynch from converting a low cross from the right wing, and Maroney tried to steer the ball back toward goal on the volley. Her effort struck Smith, prompting shouts for handball from the small cluster of Duquesne fans nestled in the Dick Dlesk Stadium stand. Vaughn, again, wasn’t swayed.

Maloney passed up what appeared to be a certain goal three minutes into the second overtime period. Schwindel gathered Silva’s right-wing cross and swiveled to steer the ball across goal where Maloney stood, unmarked, six yards away from a gaping net. A faint deflection slightly altered the ball’s trajectory, and Maloney contrived to scoop it over the crossbar as she re-adjusted her stance. The Harrisburg, Pa. native pounded her fist into the ground in frustration as many of the 624 spectators gasped in astonishment.

McCarthy added her verve to the cause again with five minutes remaining. Duquesne substitute Ashley Stratton tried desperately to funnel the rampaging left-back inside into traffic, but McCarthy had other ideas. The Canadian took the long way round, skipping toward the touchline before delivering a pinpoint cross for Silva on the edge of the six-yard box. Her header found the outside of the post before bouncing to safety.

Maloney found the side net with two minutes remaining after Schwindel charged down Weber’s attempted clearance, and it seemed certain that WVU would need to settle for a second consecutive tie after last Sunday’s clash with Miami ended in stalemate.

Keane’s heroics left them fortunate to remain level at the end.