ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy women’s soccer team came out locked in and highly motivated, and it showed on the scoreboard as the Mids (4-2-3, 1-0 PL) made a loud statement on Friday night with an emphatic 4-0 win over the Bucknell Bison (3-4-1, 0-1 PL) in a rematch from last year’s Patriot League Semifinals.
Picked first and second in this year’s Patriot League Preseason Coaches Poll, Navy first and Bucknell second, the Mids scored early and often. At the same time, their defense was solid throughout the 90 minutes at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility, with their fifth shutout of the season through just nine games.
Alexa Riddle (So., Tomball, Texas) got the scoring going with her first goal of the year in the sixth minute as she was followed by Jenna Daunt (Jr., Haymarket, Va.) in the 28th minute, Caitlin Doran (Sr., Queens, N.Y.) in the 56th and Marlee Heaven (Fr., Bethesda, Md.) in the 76th. Though not a goal scorer, Amanda Graziano played a pivotal role in nearly all of those goals, as she was credited with three assists.
In net, Mattie Gallagher (Jr., Gilbertsville, Pa.) backstopped the Mids to victory with six saves.
“It was great to come out tonight and get our first Patriot League win of the year,” remarked head coach Carin Gabarra. “Bucknell is a very good team that is really talented and very well coached. They play organized soccer and have some really talented players. We’ve been focusing on patience in our attack, and I felt that paid off tonight. We connected a lot of passes and had good possessions that created dangerous scoring looks. We had a very good balance of possession and finding our forwards behind early. They were very effective and challenged Bucknell in the box a lot. I’m really proud of the team effort.
“We had so many standout performances and moments tonight; Alexa got her first goal of the season, Marlee scored her first career goal, Amanda was constantly making plays and had three assists, and wow, Caitlin’s goal was something special!”
The action started out fast for the visitors as Rylee Donaldson, the reigning Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, rocketed a shot towards a goal that rang off the crossbar just 54 seconds into the game. Less than three minutes later, Bucknell lined up another shot, though a Navy defender blocked Kenar Gelman’s attempt.
After withstanding that initial burst by the Bison, the Mids broke onto the scoreboard first at 6:26 when Chloe Dawson (Jr., Fairfax, Va.) and Graziano worked a quick give-and-go off of a throw-in before Dawson whipped a cross into the six-yard box to Riddle, who sprinted in front of a defender and one-timed a shot into the low corner past Bucknell’s goalkeeper, Jenna Hall.
A little over 20 minutes later, Navy extended its lead to two goals when Graziano spun around a defender, headed in towards the net, and ripped a shot towards the far post, only to see Hall make a diving save. With an aggressive nose for the goal, Daunt quickly gathered the fortuitous rebound and put away the loose ball at 27:16.
The Mids nearly made it 3-0 in the 41st minute when Kat Healey’s (Jr., King George, Va.) shot caught the bottom edge of the crossbar and bounced directly out to Mimi Abusham (Fr., Los Alamitos, Calif.), who’s shot on goal was denied by Hall.
The defending Patriot League Champions, the Bison continued their quest to break onto the scoreboard in the second half as twice in the first three minutes, Bucknell tested Gallagher, including a Donaldson shot in the 46th minute that forced the Mids’ keeper to dive low to her right.
Navy added to its lead 10 minutes later as Graziano played a ball over the top and through the Bucknell defense to Doran, who settled the ball and almost immediately hit a high arching shot over Hall and into the far upper-90 at 55:01.
The game’s final goal came in the 76th minute when Isabella Romano (Fr., Syosset, N.Y.) collected a deflected ball off of a Healey pass into the box and quickly played a crisp pass on the ground to the far post to Heaven. The latter finished the ball into the back of the net at 75:12.
Up 4-0, Gallagher turned aside a pair of Bucknell shots over the final 14 minutes to seal the clean sheet.
“Bucknell is an explosive team that can really score goals,” said Gabarra. “You go into every game with them having to account for Rylee Donaldson; she’s a quality goal scorer who is fast and good with or without the ball. I thought we did a very good job accounting for her, where she was, how they planned to find her, and limiting her looks. Add in Teresa Deda, who is a skilled and crafty playmaker for them in the midfield; we really had to defend well as a team tonight. Mattie did a great job orchestrating the defense and stopping all of their shots on goal.”
Both teams recorded 14 shots for the game, though Navy held a slight 7-6 edge in shots on goal. On Friday night, the visitors had a significant 9-3 advantage in corner kicks.
In goal, Gallagher made six saves to earn her 11th career shutout and drop her 2022 goals against average to 0.63 over eight games of action.
“I think that our soccer has been getting better and better these past few weeks,” said Gabarra in closing. “We’re confident now. Unfortunately, our last game against Towson only made it to halftime because we were really starting to come alive. I also think losing half a game helped make us even more excited to play. We were super excited to open conference play at home, especially against the team that won the league and went on to play in the NCAAs. Our team was ready, they seemed very focused in the locker room pregame, and they came out ready to go.”
Navy will continue its early Patriot League schedule with a Wednesday night tilt versus in-state rival Loyola. The first touch between the Mids and Greyhounds is slated for 7 p.m. at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility.