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  September 4, 2008 Issue                                       

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CHC women’s soccer splits on opening weekend

Senior Stephanie Carlyle assisted on the winning goal for Chestnut Hill College last Sunday.

Women’s soccer squads converged on Chestnut Hill College from north and south last weekend as the Griffins got their season underway with back-to-back homestands.

On Saturday, CHC hosted the Concordia College Clippers, who sailed back to Bronxville, N.Y., with a 4-2 victory. The next afternoon, the Columbia Union Pioneers made the trek up from Takoma Park, Md., but they were soon headed back down the beaten path following an unsettling 3-0 loss to Chestnut Hill.

With Sunday’s victory, the CHC women accomplished a feat that had eluded them all last season, when they finished with a record of 0-18-1.

“Opening weekend is always a sort of lottery,” first-year CHC coach Seamus O’Connor said after the long-awaited win. “I think yesterday the girls were a bit nervous and apprehensive, and they had last season on their mind. We didn’t play our best and the girls were upset with themselves, and they were determined to represent the school better today.”

O’Connor now coaches both the men’s and women’s teams at the college, after piloting just the male Griffins last fall.

In Saturday’s season opener, Concordia struck twice in the middle of the first half for a 2-0 lead at the break. CHC forward Lauren Riiff, a sophomore transfer, got the Griffins on the board just 30 seconds into the second period, receiving an assist from another second-year transfer student, Tara Morey.

With a little over 30 minutes left to play, junior Julie Treen’s corner kick set up a Riiff header to create at 2-2 tie, but the Clippers (1-0) struck twice in the last 23 minutes to notch the “W.”

As Sunday’s match unfolded, a fired-up CHC club continually pressured Columbia Union (0-1), piling up an 18-1 advantage in shots over the first 20 minutes. The Griffins finally converted one of their many opportunities with 23:09 remaining in the period, when Riiff found the net on a shot that bent back the fingertips of Union goalie April Ridenour. Junior Stephanie Carlyle set up the marker, carrying the ball across the 18 on the right side and then passing the ball over to Riiff on her left.

Many of CHC’s assaults originated on the left wing, but with other Griffins often failing to seal off the play on the right side, a number of opportunities were lost. Despite a 29-2 shooting advantage, Chestnut Hill only led 1-0 at halftime.

“We needed to curve the run to the back post,” admitted O’Connor, who explained, “in those first two weeks of [training] camp you’re trying to fit in a whole season’s worth of knowledge, and not everything is going to sink in.

“We wanted to get the defense down first,” he continued, “so that we’re going to be able to stay in a game most of the time. I’m really happy with what we’re doing on that end; we’re allowing far fewer shots on goal than we did last year.”

Treen provided the first insurance goal just four minutes into the second half, launching a corner kick from the left and watching the ball sail into the cage untouched. A dozen minutes later, it was Treen again, this time firing from out in the right side of the box and having the ball glance in off of the crossbar. With a 3-0 advantage, Chestnut Hill used its bench freely in the remainder of the contest.

As they did the previous day, the Griffins split halves between their two goalies, with sophomore Caitlin Lafferty (two saves) starting the game, and senior Kelly Evans (one save) relieving her at halftime. Lafferty donned a regular jersey and went out to play the field for a time during the second half. Carlyle and fellow upperclassman Rebecca Howell helped form the defensive bulwark in front of the CHC keepers, and another senior, midfielder Tiffany Stanton, had a major impact in both aspects of the transition game.