UCF spoils women’s soccer conference opener
Late into the second period at Westcott Field, the Mustangs found themselves in a familiar position. Down 2-1, SMU did their best to recreate the magic they found in Stillwater one week ago when Isabelle Nashmi found the equalizer in the final seconds of the match. On this night though, Nashmi and company were unable to strike lightning in a bottle once more and fell to the Golden Knights 2-1.
Playing in their first game since the United Soccer Coaches Poll anointed the Mustangs the No. 22 team in the nation, the Ponies appeared slightly rusty from their 11-day hiatus. Notably, Chris Petrucelli’s squad was down two starters heading into the American Athletic Conference opener with Hannah Allred and Jessica Cooley both sidelined with injuries. With depth at the attacking positions being a hallmark of the 2019 SMU team, the leading shot taker’s absence from the lineup was particularly felt.
“It doesn’t matter if you started one game and didn’t start the next. We have 26 very capable players. It wasn’t an issue of not starting or anything like that,” Petrucelli said about the lineup changes. “(This loss) was the normal characters that carry our team didn’t play very well.”
Even after UCF sophomore forward Kristen Scott placed the Mustangs in a hole early, scoring in the 13th minute of the match, SMU was able to generate a sense of urgency on the offensive end. The trio of Courtney Sebazco, Celiana Torres and Hailey Bishop were active in providing ball pressure all night. Bishop, who was thrust into the starting nine after Cooley’s injury, showcased her speed all over the field and generated a handful of extra possessions late in the second half.
It was the 53rd minute of play that provided all the fireworks in this contest. Jewel Boland, also spotlighting in an abnormal role due to Allred’s lower leg injury, authored one of the more unique goals of the season. Off a corner kick served by Torres, the ball was initially launched in the air in the midst of a conglomeration of Knights and Mustangs. UCF redshirt freshman goaltender Caroline DeLisle jumped up to make a play on the ball but could not corral it fully. Boland emerged from the pack to place her right foot on the ball and inch it across the goalline to tie the game at one.
53' | GOALLLLLL SMU!!!
Jewel Boland heads the ball across the goal line off a corner kick from Celiana Torres
? https://t.co/rvoIGUlef1 pic.twitter.com/c6FpssFmZp
— SMU Women's Soccer (@SMUSoccerW) October 4, 2019
While the entire SMU bench came crashing down to the corner to celebrate with the junior transfer, UCF continued the play. It was only seconds later the officials huddled to signal the ball had officially crossed the goalline.
Unfortunately though, UCF had other plans to spoil the annual “Pink Out” game. Just 34 seconds later the Golden Knights ensured the livened crowd would be subdued. After another scrimish for the ball, UCF senior Zandy Soree drew a foul that landed her with a penalty kick. The Golden Knights co-leader in goals narrowly fired a liner past freshman keeper Tatum Sutherland to bring the score to its final form at 2-1.
“We gave the ball away a couple of times that led to (the PK). I think that is more disappointing than the actually penalty,” Petrucelli said of the emotional swing of the two goals. “It came from us from having chances to pass the ball and us just kicking it. It came back down our throats.”
In just the second loss of the season for SMU, this was the first time all year the team was outshot. UCF had the advantage in both shots and corner kicks, edging out the Mustangs 13-11 and 6-4 respectively. Sebazco lead all players with a game-high four shots, two on goal.
“We were able to get back in it and I thought we started the second half well. We got one back. We just had a couple of mental lapses that led to the second goal. That is a good team and they are not giving up the lead twice,” Petrucelli said.
SMU will turn around and play the other Florida team in the conference, USF, on Sunday at 1 p.m. The focus for the coming days, however, will not be the opponent, it will be inward.
“It has to be cleaner. Our passing has to be cleaner and our touch has to be cleaner. We weren’t really sharp,” Petrucelli noted. “I don’t know if that is the layoff, or who knows what it is, but we just weren’t sharp.”