PHILADELPHIA – The tests for the Navy women’s soccer team continued on the road on Thursday night as the Mids (3-2-3) earned a hard-fought 1-1 tie with the Penn Quakers (1-0-4) at Rhodes Field in downtown Philadelphia. Challenged throughout the 90-minute affair, the Mids battled back from allowing a late first-half goal with a late second-half goal of its own. Amanda Graziano (So., Middlebury, Conn.) played the role of hero on Thursday night as she one-timed a Jordan Townsend (Fr., Marriottsville, Md.) pass into the back of the net in the 81st minute.
Junior goalkeeper Mattie Gallagher (Gilbertsville, Pa.) was active in the net for Navy as she faced 17 shots, including eight that were on goal, and came away with a season-high seven saves.
“Tonight, was a really competitive game between two quality teams,” remarked head coach Carin Gabarra. “I thought our possession was very good for the majority of the first half, but we let our foot off the gas a little towards the end and they [Penn] made us pay. In the second half, Penn controlled the run of play for a good portion of the period, but we did what we needed to do in the end to get a goal. I’m really proud of that score; it was a testament to our effort, doing the work, and everyone doing whatever it takes to create a scoring opportunity.”
The action opened evenly as both teams recorded one shot over the initial 10 minutes. The host Quakers tallied the first shot on goal of the contest in the 19th minute, though Gallagher had little trouble with Sizzy Lawton’s attempt for her first save.
A little over three minutes later, a slickly threaded pass by Katie Herrmann (Jr., Charlotte, N.C.) through Penn’s defense found Caitlin Doran (Sr., Queens, N.Y.) in space. The Quakers’ goalkeeper Laurence Gladu quickly sprinted off her line and closed in on Doran to force a rushed shot on goal.
Similar to Penn’s first shot on goal, the host’s second attempt on frame caused little consternation for Gallagher in the 29th minute.
The scoreboard finally saw some action six minutes later when Penn’s Anuli Okafor played a dangerous cross in from the right wing that deflected off a Navy defender and was quickly one-timed by Janae Stewart into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead at 35:45.
Coming out of the second half down by one goal, Navy struggled initially to make in-roads in Penn’s final third and didn’t register its first shot of the period until 70:34. Over those first 25 minutes, the Quakers found more success in their hunt for a goal as they took four shots with three of those tries making their way to Gallagher.
With the score 1-0 and the clock heading towards 10 minutes left in regulation, the Mids found their time shine. Building up the right wing via Doran, the senior striker played the ball into the box to Alexa Riddle (So., Tomball, Texas), who tried to flip the ball past the Penn goalkeeper, though she was denied. After collecting the rebound, Riddle re-directed the ball out across the six-yard box to Townsend, who gathered herself, turned to her right, and fed Graziano for a well-struck one-timer into the upper-90 of the right side of the goal at 80:10.
“I was really impressed with the patience and composure that we showed in scoring our goal,” exclaimed Gabarra. “Caitlin did a great job of starting the action. Alexa was creative, though got her shot blocked, but she stayed with it and found Jordan on the outside to re-set the attack. Jordan played a well-paced controlled ball that Amanda didn’t miss; she hit a really nice shot!”
Re-invigorated by its late game-tying goal, Navy continued to press on for the go-ahead goal on offense, while locking down Penn on defense. One final save by Gallagher in the 89th minute sealed the 1-1 draw.
For the game, Penn outshot Navy, 17-5 with an 8-2 advantage in shots on goal. The hosts also held a 7-1 edge in corner kicks on Thursday night.
“All of the little things have been getting better,” said Gabarra in closing. “Our intensity has increased, we’re connecting passes better, we’re so close to getting behind defenses. Tonight, we got a high-quality goal against a very, very good Penn team. That’s a good way to convince us that we’ve got what it takes. We’re heading in the right direction with Patriot League play just a week away.”
Navy will close out the non-conference portion of its schedule on Sunday at home versus Towson. The opening whistle for the contest between the Mids and Tigers is set for 6 p.m. at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility.