by Tom Utescher
Over the first few weeks of the 2014 soccer season, neither goals nor victories were easy to come by for the women of Chestnut Hill College.
Both came the Griffins’ way in last Saturday’s home match, when a first-half goal by freshman Kylee Jazikoff held up for a 1-0 win.
After being shut out in their first three matches this year, Chestnut Hill chalked up its first goal of the fall against Bloomsburg University on Tuesday of last week. The Huskies, a team that Griffins coach Sandy Dickson piloted for 12 seasons before landing at CHC in 2012, snapped the resulting tie to win the game, 3-1. Four days later, though, one goal proved to be enough for the local ladies as senior goalie Samantha Pauls posted a five-save shutout to help capture the club’s first “W”.
“Obviously, this was huge because it gets that monkey off our back,” commented Dickson, whose team improved to 1-4. “Aside from our game against Post [a 6-0 defeat in a downpour the previous weekend], we haven’t played poorly. We just kept waiting and waiting for that perfect opportunity to score, and I’ve been stressing that if we just get shots off, good things will happen. We also changed up how we were playing a little bit, and we moved some people around on the field.”
A new addition to the CHC coaching staff knows a little bit about putting the ball in the goal. Longtime assistant Stephanie Williams (CHC ’07) has now been joined by Lauren Riiff (’12), Chestnut Hill’s all-time leading scorer and a two-time player-of-the-year selection in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference. On the defensive end, the team is benefitting from the knowledge of former men’s team goalie Michael Goldstein (’13).
CHC graduated a number of seniors from last year’s squad, and they were seniors who had been impact players for several seasons, including a pair of dangerous scorers and several stalwart defenders.
Speaking of three-time All-CACC forward Carly DiGiovanni (’14), Coach Dickson pointed out, “Obviously that’s a big loss, because you knew if Carly had even one or two opportunities to score during a game, she always had a good chance of putting it in. This year we’re searching for someone who’s willing to try and fill that role; we’re telling them ‘this is your opportunity to show what you can do.’ “
So far two players have answered the call; senior Katherine Williams, who scored against Bloomsburg, and the freshman, Jazikoff, whose goal last weekend lifted the Griffins to a 1-2 mark in their conference.
After the two teams roamed the length of the field for the first 30 minutes or so on Saturday, CHC sustained offensive pressure for a spell and earned a corner kick on the right side. The hosts did not get off a good initial shot, but they kept the ball in front of the Golden Falcons’ cage, where it bounced around until Jazikoff was able to apply enough shoe leather to nudge it across the goal line.
This occurred with 11:20 left in the opening period, and although the visitors had a few chances to tie (they outshot CHC for the afternoon, 16-10), the 1-0 count held up until halftime.
About 14 minutes into the second half, Griffins junior Danielle Spinuzza charged up the right wing with the ball, but the resulting shot went right into Felician goalie Julia Sheridan (three saves) as she advanced out of the cage. The Golden Falcons made a number of rushes of their own, but many of them were slowed or stopped by the staunch defense of CHC sophomore Annalyse Culp.
With 25 minutes gone, Felician penetrated far enough for Marissa Nieves to unleash a well-struck shot, but Pauls dove to block the ball and deflected it away. On the subsequent corner kick for the visitors, the Griffins were able to clear the ball upfield without allowing their guests to get off another shot.
Four minutes later, Griffins senior Victoria Fioretti almost broke completely into the open on a dash up the middle, but the ball was taken off her feet by the last defender in her path, Felician’s Carly Brantner. Fioretti attacked again soon afterwards, and her waist-high shot was saved in front of the right post by Sheridan.
The Griffins never got an insurance goal, but they handled themselves with aplomb as the desperate Falcons assaulted the Chestnut Hill goal in the closing minutes of the game. The positive outcome could help a CHC squad that is trying to discover its identity.
There are 11 seniors on the ball club, but Dickson pointed out, “A lot of them are getting their first chance to play on a regular basis. We have freshmen who are contributing, and we even have some walk-on kids who are now on the field and starting. That’s to their credit, but it also says something about our team – it’s still in the process of forming.”
One of the rookies on the roster is forward Julia Casasanto, a 2014 graduate of Penn Charter.