Davidson, NC – The Lady Wildcats fell to the Pirates of Eastern Carolina 2-1 in their season opener at Alumni Stadium on August 25th.
Eastern Carolina gained momentum early in the first half, keeping pressure on the Davidson defense throughout the first half. In spite of the aggression, the ‘Cats had two huge defensive stops at the 41 minute mark. Junior goalkeeper Kendall Thomas and the rest of the Wildcat defense showed tremendous poise by keeping the ball out of the back of the net throughout the two minute long attack before clearing. Thomas described the moment as a response to some fatigue that the team faced at the end of the half, but they still, “fought together as a team to get through that pressure.”
The Pirates kept up the attack, striking first in the first three minutes of the second half. This moment “sparked an energy on the field within our team,” said Thomas. The Wildcats held their own, however, and kept themselves in the game. The offense responded with a push of their own at the 55-minute mark and kept the pressure up for the rest of the half. Finally, their attacks paid dividends in the form of an Allison Gray goal in the 87th minute. The Davidson faithful was electric in the home opener.
Unfortunately, after a questionable call in the 88th minute, ECU responded with another goal off of a free kick from just beyond the far right corner of the box. The Wildcats put up a valiant fight over the course of the last few seconds, but came up empty handed. Thomas noted that, “in our future games, we are looking to continue playing our style of soccer – building through the midfield and connecting passes to create quality chances. We are excited for the rest of the season and the opportunities we have to show what we can do.”
On the men’s side, Davidson won the showdown against the Presbyterian Blue Hose 2-1 on Saturday night. The Wildcats came out of the gates executing a strong game plan of countering Presbyterian’s energy with aggressive sets on offense. The pressure from these sets ultimately paid dividends for the Wildcats early in the form of a successful penalty kick by senior Matt Reinikka in the nineteenth minute. After an intense mental showdown between the Davidson captain and the Blue Hose goalkeeper put the Wildcats in front early.
Despite a miscue on defense that led to a Blue Hose goal in the twenty-first minute, Reinikka was proud of how the Davidson defense responded. He noted that Presbyterian was a young team with a lot of energy, but that the Cats’ did a good job of matching it. Thus, the defense as a whole did a good job limiting opportunities. The Men’s Captain was satisfied with their overall performance, acknowledging that, “We defended well for the most part, with their only real chances being their goal and that final header within the last minute.”
The ‘Cats came out in the second half firing. After an early save in the forty-sixth minute by goalkeeper Sam Bissett, the ‘Cats settled in and clearly dominated the momentum of the game. Though Presbyterian had their fair share of possessions, Reinikka explained that, “at halftime, we discussed staying together and compact as a team when they had established good possession, and talked about picking times to press them and doing it as a group.”
In the 58th minute, Aidan Peterson scored the go-ahead goal with a header. The stands were electric on the home opening weekend. The team carried this energy through the rest of the game. Presbyterian didn’t have any more real opportunities for the rest of the game until the last minute. The Blue Hose had a header that narrowly missed wide left with 38 seconds to go in the game, but, after that heart-stopping moment, the Wildcats were smooth sailing to their first victory of the season.
Reinikka said that going forward the team looks to continue “putting pressure on teams through quick, clinical attacking play. We are a team that likes to have control of the ball and wants to dictate the game through our possession.”
The Men’s team followed up their win over Presbyterian with a strong effort against Radford, pulling out a narrow 1-0 victory. Junior Coleman Richards, a Charlotte native, broke the deadlock in the 71st minute. Radford responded with a threatening offensive attack, nearly scoring off consecutive corners in the 78th minute. They kept the ball in Davidson’s end for the remaining minutes, with narrow misses up until the final whistle.
Meanwhile, the Women’s Team has had a tougher start to their season, especially given that one of their opening two games was against Wake Forest, a team currently ranked 17th nationally. Their win over Gardner-Webb has been followed up by losses against Wake Forest, their previously mentioned loss against ECU, and closely contested losses to ETSU and Coastal Carolina. The team is hoping that their tough early slate will prepare them well for the most important stretch of the Cats’ schedule, when they begin their conference schedule against UMass on September 21st.
The Women’s team next faces off against Appalachian State on Thursday, while the Men’s Team will take on UNC-Asheville today. The teams’ A-10 conference slates begin September 21st and September 30th, respectively.