By: Beckett Bathanti – Sports Editor – email@example.com
UNC Asheville’s women’s soccer team was limited to three second-half shots and lost 4-2 to Appalachian State Friday afternoon at Greenwood Field.
Despite being outshot 14-3 in the second half, Head Coach Michelle Demko said UNCA played better soccer in the second half.
“We had better possessions in the second half, and I thought our speed of play was good,” she said.
The Bulldogs were unable to capitalize on their crisp play after halftime until freshman Shenny Leinhart scored in minute 83.
Demko said tactical mistakes were a contributing factor in the loss to the Mountaineers.
“We were doing enough to get into the final third but once we got there, our movement was almost non-existent,” Demko said after the game. “There were times that we only had one person in the box.”
The Bulldogs, who fell to 2-6 with the loss, took the lead in minute 7 when junior Amanda Knapp guided a pass from senior captain Ferriss Roberts into the net.
Appalachian State struck back in minute 12 when Julie Holz assisted Jenna Caudle on a breakaway goal. Holz would later add two goals of her own.
The two teams went in to halftime tied at 1, but ASU struck quickly in the second half, and the Bulldogs were never able to mount a sufficient comeback.
“Soccer is an up and back game, and we need commitment to playing from the 18 to the 18. Right now, we are lacking commitment,” Demko said.
Sophomore goalie Heather Mueller made several sensational saves over the course of the game, but Appalachian had too many opportunities in the box in the second half and were able to net another three goals in the period.
“We have to crash the box. We know it works and we know we can do it, but we haven’t quite put it into action in games yet,” Mueller said.
Demko said clearing the ball to the middle of the field led to Appalachian getting more chances on goal.
“Our clearances have to go wide and not central. Their strength is in the middle, so we want to get the ball out to the sides and not give them extra chances,” Demko said.
The women’s soccer team is loaded with freshman, including defender Rachel Kish, who is coming off an undisclosed injury. The Winston-Salem native played significant amounts in the second half against Appalachian State and seems ready to make an impact for the Bulldogs, Demko said.
“She definitely has a presence,” Demko said. “We want to make sure we bring her back (from her injury) in the right way. She is used to playing at a high level.”
Roberts tries to keep the underclassmen grounded in the present.
“I tell them to remember what is important. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of college, but you have to focus on now,” Roberts said.
Demko relies on her returners to make sure the new players understand what is expected of them.
“From the get-go, we have to make sure freshmen understand the expectations of the program and where their priorities need to be,” Demko said.
She says the freshmen have strong leaders in their captains and upperclassmen.
“I’m not concerned with our leadership at all. I think we have players that truly want to help make their teammates better,” Demko said.
Mueller, who is in her second season as starting goalie, said she was disappointed after the loss, but is looking ahead.
“We played really well, and I think we gave them a good fight, but we just have to keep moving forward,” Mueller said.