Scorer Carly DiGiovanni (left), a Chestnut Hill College senior, celebrates her opening goal in Saturday’s game with junior Kaelyn Pizarro (center) and senior Alyssa Radetich (right). (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Visiting Millersville University only held the lead once during last Saturday’s non-league soccer match against the Chestnut Hill College women, but the goal that moved the Marauders ahead for the first time proved to be the last marker of the afternoon. They headed back to central Pennsylvania with a 2-0 record, while the CHC Griffins slipped to 0-2 on the season.

Chestnut Hill, hosting the contest in Plymouth Whitemarsh High School’s football stadium, scored first in the match, fell back into a halftime tie, and then went up 2-1 in the second period. Two goals in a span of just over three minutes sealed the victory for Millersville, which put in the game-winner with a little over 17 minutes left to play.

The Griffins weren’t happy about losing the close contest, but they’d played better than they had in their opener at West Chester University, where the nationally-ranked Golden Rams romped, 6-0.

“We did a nice job of adjusting to Millersville,” commented second-year CHC head coach Sandy Dickson. “They played a four-three-three, so we adjusted our formation to match up with them early in the first half.”

Dickson, who spent many years coaching Bloomsburg University in the Pa. State Athletic Conference, is quite familiar with the style of soccer played by PSAC teams such as Millersville and West Chester.

“Overall, I’m pleased with today’s effort,” she said on Saturday. “Still, one of the things we have to establish in this team is the belief that at the end of a game like this we’re going to tie it up or we’re going to win. The other things are there, but that’s the hump we need to get over, and it’ll come.”

Chestnut Hill had the majority of ball possession in the opening minutes and made a few runs into the box at the offensive end, but the Marauders quickly regrouped and put a number of dangerous shots on the CHC goal. The visitors struck the right goalpost once and the crossbar twice.

Still the Marauders came away empty, and CHC was actually first on the board, getting senior Carly DiGiovanni loose on a breakaway. The second leading scorer for the Griffins last year, DiGiovanni tucked the ball into the net about a dozen minutes into the action off of a lead pass from junior Kaelyn Pizarro.

Frustrated Millersville applied pressure at the other end, forcing CHC senior goalie Jessica Veazey to make several very difficult saves.

With 11 minutes remaining in the opening period, Chestnut Hill had a chance to go up by two goals on a corner kick, but on a strong follow-up shot to the original attempt off the corner, Griffins freshman Danielle Spinuzza could not penetrate the cage.

It was Millersville which would score off a rebound to tie the game with 5:10 to go in the first half, as Gina Grier got herself in position to punch in the ball after a shot by teammate Sara Cressman was blocked. The count was still 1-1 at halftime.

Referring to Veazey, who finished with 11 saves, CHC’s Dickson noted, “At the end of the first half things were sort of helter-skelter, and she helped keep us in it. She’s coming back from shoulder surgery, and she’s done a good job of getting right back into the routine.

“One of the adjustments we made,” the coach continued, “was moving [junior] Brittany Boles to sort of a defensive center mid, and in the second half she helped create some things for us coming out of the back.”

Five minutes into the second stanza CHC’s DiGiovanni got off a header from the left side of the penalty area, but the ball was not struck particularly hard and Millersville keeper Olivia Webber made a routine stop.

The Griffins continued to attack through much of the first 20 minutes of the new period. Junior Marykate McShane shot the ball into the right post shortly after DiGiovanni’s head ball, and on a CHC attack a few minutes later Webber had to charge out to snatch the ball away from the feet of Griffins senior Alyssa Radetich.

With 30 minutes remaining Chestnut Hill got into the box for back-to-back shots, but the first attempt was blocked and the Griffins turned out to be offsides for the second. After another four minutes, a long ball by Pizarro came back off the crossbar.

A little over a minute later Millersville lost its handle on the ball while trying to clear it out of its defensive third. Pizarro ran onto the loose ball about 25 yards out in the middle of the field, and this time her outside shot was on-net and beat Webber. The home team now had its second lead of the afternoon, at 2-1, with 24:01 on the clock.

Once again, though, the Griffins were not able to maintain the advantage.

At the end of an adept passing sequence, Kelsey Mattola scored for the Marauders with 20:32 remaining, and three minutes and 17 seconds later teammate Emily Purcell pounded the game-winner, firing from 10 yards past the 18 a little right of center.

The host club still had 17 minutes to net a tying goal, but even when the clock dropped below 10 minutes and the situation began to require more urgent action, the Griffins had a clutch of players staying well back in the defensive half of the pitch. CHC sent a head shot over the crossbar off of a corner kick with 10 minutes to go, and the Marauders made their one-goal lead stand up until the final horn.

“We talked about that after the game,” Dickson said. “It’s the final eight minutes and we’re down a goal – the mentality’s got to be that we’re pushing numbers forward to tie this game, not hanging back.”

This Saturday the Griffins will travel just north of New York City to play their 2012 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference opener against Nyack College. Chestnut Hill was ranked sixth in the CACC pre-season poll and Nyack was ninth, while the top position went to the Griffins’ closest conference rival, Philadelphia University.