During Chestnut Hill College’s home match last Saturday, junior Lauren Bjorke (left) battles for the ball with Springside School graduate Jamie McGinn, now a sophomore starter for Dominican College. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Responding to an early goal by visiting Dominican College with two quick strikes of their own, the Chestnut Hill College women maintained the resulting 2-1 lead throughout the remainder of last Saturday’s Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference soccer match.

The outcome elevated the Griffins into winning territory in the CACC, at 2-1-1, and gave them an overall record of 2-4-1, while the Dominican Chargers headed back to Orangeburg, N.Y. at 2-2, 2-3-1.

“The conference is brutal – a battle every game – and it’s great anytime you can get a win,” remarked third-year head coach Sandy Dickson. “We’ve gotten some people back from injuries and that’s starting to help us. We’ve had four concussions, sprained ankles, kids in the ER, but if there can be any upside to that, it gave a lot of different people more playing time and gave us more experience overall.”

After a rough go in a 3-0 conference loss to Georgian Court earlier in the week, Dickson was happy to see junior goalie Samantha Pauls keep her confidence and be able to make 14 saves and protect a one-goal lead for the last 50-plus minutes of Saturday’s contest. Pauls has just stepped into the nets this season, following the graduation of four-year mainstay Jessica Veazey.

Dominican spent more time on offense overall in the weekend duel, outshooting the hosts, 22-17, but the Griffins were more dangerous in transition, earning 11 corner kicks to the visitors’ three. The match at CHC’s Victory Field was a kind of homecoming for the Chargers’ Jamie McGinn, a sophomore who participated in varsity soccer, basketball, and track at the old Springside School. She is a defensive midfielder and a regular starter for the Dominican booters.

McGinn’s squad was first on the board last Saturday. A little over a dozen minutes in, they lofted a ball into the box and senior Olivia Antonopoulos put it away for the early lead. This occurred four minutes earlier than Georgian Court had started to score on CHC three days earlier, but in this game the Griffins kept their cage closed the rest of the way, and answered back.

They pressed up on the attack, but didn’t net the equalizer until a penalty kick was called on the visitors with 8:54 remaining in the first half. Senior Carly DiGiovanni, a two-time first team all-star in the conference, placed the ball inside the right post at chest height to make it 1-1.

After that, the key for the Griffins was that they did not sit back for a spell, satisfied with their tying goal, but kept on attacking. That led to a second score a little over two minutes later. On a corner kick from the right, there was no shot directly off the restart, and Dominican cleared the ball out just over the 18 yard line on the right side.

Chestnut Hill popped the ball back into the box and DiGiovanni, a few yards inside the right post, headed it into the middle on the ground, where senior classmate Lauren Nolte punched it into the cage.

“We’re trying to play very simple soccer,” observed Coach Dickson. “We want to connect 10 to 12-yard balls and keep possession. We’re working on switching the point of attack more and keeping the ball on the grass.”

The rest of the afternoon would’ve have been less nerve-wracking for the home crowd if the Griffins had been able to convert a second penalty kick, which was called with 3:19 to go in the half. This time, though, Chargers goalie Gina Yannette was able to make a diving save on a shot that DiGiovanni hit low to the left.

After the intermission, the Dominican offense applied pressure early and kept it on. Occasionally the Griffins made brief forays to the other end of the pitch, but they did not earn their first corner of the period until more than 26 minutes had gone by.

In the CHC goal, Pauls was making some tough saves, and was getting help from her experienced defense. About 20 minutes into the half, Griffins junior Melissa Marotta dashed over to block a potentially dangerous shot right on the feet of a Dominican forward.

As usual, 5’1” senior back Brittany Boles was frequently in the thick of the action.

“Boles is our leader back there,” Dickson stated. “She’s a pint-sized little player, but she just has so much soccer sense. She reads the game and she anticipates what’s going to happen, and she comes through when we’re in a tight spot.”

With 16 minutes left to play, Dominican missed an excellent chance to tie the match when a ball went bouncing left to right through the box and Melissa Messina was unable to hit an open volley into the goal. Four minutes after that, an outside shot from the right flank by the Chargers’ Jamilyn Snyder skipped off another player on the way to goal, but CHC’s Pauls wasn’t fooled by the altered flight path of the ball and hauled it in.

In the final minute of play, the junior keeper stopped a long shot by Dominican’s Elisa Falzarano and a closer attempt by Samantha Cala, and the Griffins were able to celebrate a well-earned win.