After only their first WCC game of the year, the Lady Dons soccer team has already improved their in-conference record from last season, as they continue to exorcise the ghosts of their recent past. In a nail-biting overtime match, sophomore striker Molly Hall scored two goals to lift USF (6-1-5, 1-0-0 WCC) to a 2-1 victory at Negoesco Stadium in a fiercely contested battle with cross-bay nemesis St. Mary’s (8-6-0, 0-1-0 WCC).
The girls of St. Mary’s imposed themselves early in the game, using a highly attackive 4-3-3 formation which relied on the strength of their wingers to make penetrating runs on the flanks. Supported by a tough combative midfield, the Gaels tested the USF back four time and again in the opening minutes, but the defense did not break.
The momentum of the match suddenly shifted in the 20th minute, when senior midfielder Kristina Hall served a splendid assist to Molly Hall who punished the visitors by hammering the ball past Gael goalie Tara Larson. The goal was a result of a lethal counterattack in which the Hall-Hall tandem exploited a hole in the central defense to put USF up 1-0. It was the first goal of the season for Molly Hall. After the goal, the Lady Dons enjoyed the majority of possession and were able to dictate the tempo of the game for the remainder of the first half.
The Gaels returned to the field with a thirst for goals and again they imposed their pressing game effectively. Fourteen minutes into the second half the St. Mary’s pressure paid off, when the Dons’ defense was caught going backward on the edge of the penalty box. Defender Ashley O’Brien was forced to commit a back-pass to goalie Kelly Pohle, resulting in an indirect free kick for St. Mary’s from a dangerously close position. After a quick pass from Tara Larson, Jessica Menzhuber fired the ball past Pohle to tie the score. It was Menzhuber’s ninth goal of the season, affirming her status as one of the most prolific goleadoras of the WCC. This time, momentum shifted in the visitor’s favor, as the goal allowed them to find the same confidence with which they started the game.
USF responded with a tactical change, moving O’Brien from defense to the midfield, switching freshman Ashlyn Mazur from central defense to left back, and inserting the tall sophomore Kelli Woodard to fill the gap left by Mazur. By moving attack-minded players up the field, Coach Mark Carr demonstrated the Dons’ unwillingness to settle for yet another tie.
With tight midfield skirmishes characterizing the remainder of the match, the 1-1 result held to the end of regulation time, turning the contest into the sixth overtime battle for the Lady Dons. USF attacked the Gael defense relentlessly, at times having as many as four players playing along the front line in an effort to avoid another tie game. The Gaels replied with physical defense, distancing the ball from their goal at every opportunity. With the clock winding down on the first overtime, St. Mary’s seemed resigned to play a second period of extra time.
The Lady Dons did not share that sentiment and profited from the lapse in Gael intensity. After sophomore striker Keonna Robinson had a attempted goal saved, USF launched forward with a final attach. Woodard launched a tantalizing ball above the heads of the Gael defense for Molly Hall. Hall, burning past the defenders, coolly chipped the ball above a charging Larson and into the net ending the match. A golden goal for the Green and Gold gives USF a winning record and three precious points in the WCC classification. The Lady Dons play their next two games at Negoesco against Santa Clara on Oct. 16 and San Diego on Oct. 18.