By Kaitlyn Beauregard
On a hot and humid Friday afternoon, the Union women’s soccer team trekked over to College Park and geared up for what turned out to be a grueling weekend to open up Liberty League play. The Dutchwomen hosted Hamilton College late in the afternoon on Friday and William Smith College—a nationally ranked team—the following afternoon.
The Dutchwomen came away from the weekend with a win over Hamilton, a devastating loss to William Smith, and a new sense of themselves as a young and promising team.
From the very beginning of Friday’s game against Hamilton, Union kept the pressure on Hamilton’s defense. Less than five minutes into the game, sophomore forward Jennifer Mansfield received a cross from freshman midfielder Laura Snowden and, although her attempt on the goal was averted by Hamilton goalkeeper Hailey Bobbin, her sister and freshman forward Melissa Mansfield, got the rebound and scored her third goal of the season, giving Union a 1-0 advantage.
The Dutchwomen maintained their lead and continued to burden the Hamilton defense for the remainder of the first half and into the second half. At 63:57, senior midfielder Caitlin O’Donnell scored her first goal of the season on a free kick from 30 yards out, giving Union a 2-0 lead. Late in the game, the Hamilton Continentals put some pressure on Union’s defense, but senior goaltender Abby Stohler made two big saves, keeping the final score intact at 2-0.
Due to the increasing difficulty of the Liberty League, Head Coach Brian Speck was glad to see the Dutchwomen outplay one of their division rivals, adding, “every win is a good win.” Speck felt that the win versus Hamilton bodes well for the team’s future. Speaking of the goal by freshman Melissa Mansfield, he said, “She is a very strong, very competitive young lady. We want her in front. She did what a good forward should; we’re excited to have her for four years.”
Although Speck hoped that the momentum from Friday’s win would carry over to Saturday’s game, the Dutchwomen dropped a nail-biter to the nationally ranked William Smith Herons. Throughout the first half, it was clear that neither team was going to allow the other an easy victory. Both teams had opportunities to score in the first half, but Stohler made an in-the-air save to prevent William Smith forward Whitney Fray from scoring. The Dutchwomen missed their best opportunity of the half when junior forward Jessica Strang fired a nice shot just wide of the net’s top left corner.
Neither team was able to score until the second half when at the 63:09 mark, William Smith forward Whitney Fray scored, giving her team a 1-0 advantage. The Dutchwomen retaliated just 10 minutes later, when freshman forward Kelly McDonough took a cross from fellow freshman Melissa Mansfield and tied the game at one with her first career goal. The Dutchwomen and Herons remained locked in a tie until William Smith forward Emily Harris scored on a header with just 1:29 remaining on the clock, winning the game for William Smith and dropping Union’s record to 6-2-0.
Although there is no denying that this brutal end to a well played game was hard to take, Coach Speck says that it was not all negative. “I think we learned some very positive things about our players,” he said after the game. “Losing was tough but you learn a lot from it.”
Although they were unable to scrape a win in Saturday’s game, the Dutchwomen were a challenge for William Smith—a team ranked sixth in the country going into Saturday’s game. With their performances this weekend, the Dutchwomen proved that they are, and will continue to be, a force to be reckoned with. As Coach Speck put it at the end of the weekend’s action, “I think we showed a lot of character.”
The Dutchwomen will hit the road this weekend to take on SUNY Fredonia on Saturday afternoon for a non-conference match-up.