ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Playing its fifth game over a 10-day span, the Navy women’s soccer team was unable to extend its run of undefeated play as the team dropped a 1-0 decision to Niagara on Sunday afternoon. Coming into the matchup at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility with a run of two wins and two ties over their first two weeks of action in 2022, the Mids (2-1-2) didn’t have an answer for a second-half goal by the Purple Eagles (1-2-0) as they saw numerous late chances denied.

“We need to learn to play better in the second game of a weekend,” remarked head coach Carin Gabarra. “We had a really strong, physical performance in our Thursday night game, but we didn’t repeat that today. Mentally we weren’t ready. A lot of the little things that we need to correct from today’s game were mental, not physical. I thought our effort was very good, we had some really heroic efforts by some of our players out there today. We had chances earlier on in the game that we just didn’t execute well. We weren’t having good first touches, we weren’t making good choices in the box, and weren’t able to put away our chances. If we’re able to convert one or two of those chances it’s a different game. We got a little panicked towards the end. We need to be better in the bigger moments moving forward.”

The action on Sunday started evenly as both teams tallied one shot on goal over the opening 11 minutes, though neither attempt was particularly treacherous for either of the goalies. Navy’s first dangerous scoring opportunity was a Sophie Utsinger (So., Bettendorf, Iowa) header off of a corner kick that cleared Niagara’s keeper, Felicia Grufman, but deflected wide of the goal in the 23rd minute.

The Mids’ second shot on goal of the first half was a blistering shot off the foot of Kat Healey (Jr., King George, Va.) in the 39th minute that required Grufman to dive toward the left corner and push the ball wide.

The ensuing corner kick-off of that play turned into another threatening look for Navy as Sadie McCaleb (Sr., Loganton, Pa.) lofted a high ball into the box. Once the kick was finally settled in the box by Tatum Kelly (Pinehurst, N.C.), the sophomore defender connected for back-to-back close-range shots that were blocked. After the ball bounced around a few seconds more, Isabella Romano (Fr., Syosset, N.Y.) gathered the ball and immediately ripped a shot on goal that forced Grufman into action and into another save.

Credit: Navy Athletics

Tied 0-0 after 45 minutes of play, the visitors from western New York came out in the second half and rattled off three consecutive shots over an eight-minute run. More offensive pressure by the Purple Eagles was a common theme throughout much of the second period as they would net the go-ahead goal in the 65th minute.

Mattie Gallagher (Jr., Gilbertsville, Pa.) did her best in goal for the Mids’ to hold onto the one-goal deficit as she made a quartet of saves between the 72nd and 84th minutes. Her save in the 76th minute was especially highlight-worthy as she faced an Amanda Cripps shot that had eyes for just under the crossbar before she leaped up and punched the attempt over and away from danger.

Chasing the game-tying goal late into the contest, Navy nearly drew even with just 18 seconds remaining as a slick series of passes inside the 18-yard box from Amanda Graziano (So., Middlebury, Conn.) to Jenna Daunt (Jr., Haymarket, Va.) set up Mimi Abusham (Fr., Los Alamitos, Calif.) with one final look on goal. As she was for the Mids’ first four shots on goal, Grufman stood tall to make one last save and complete the clean sheet for the Purple Eagles.

For the game, Niagara outshot Navy, 16-13 with a 13-3 advantage in shots during the second half of play. The Purple Eagles also edged out the Mids in shots on goal, 6-5, and in corner kicks, 6-3.

Gallagher finished her performance in goal with five saves.

“We were gritty right until the end,” said Gabarra in closing. “We played a lot of people today and we competed hard. We struggled to play together, moving the ball quicker and having composure in the box when we needed it. It was mostly mental errors and those are a little easier to fix.”

Navy will head out on the road for its first road games of the season this upcoming weekend with a pair of contests in the New York metro area. First, up will be a Friday night bout at St. John’s. Kickoff between the Mids and Red Storm is set for 8 p.m. The two-game road trip will conclude with a noon tilt on Sunday versus Fairleigh Dickinson in northern New Jersey.

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