Returning to intercollegiate competition for the first time since November 2019, the Valpo women’s soccer team got the spring 2021 season started on the right foot on Wednesday afternoon at Sparta Dome in Crown Point, scoring the fastest goal to open a season in program history on its way to a 2-1 victory over Chicago State.
How It Happened
- The first half was all Valpo, as it out-shot Chicago State 12-2 over the opening 45 minutes, and it took the Brown and Gold less than seven minutes to find the back of the net.
- Freshman Kelsie James (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) had her initial effort from the top-right corner of the box blocked, but it ricocheted right back to her, and James immediately took a second shot which beat CSU goalkeeper Stella Chiara Chiaradia into the upper left corner to put Valpo on the board.
- Valpo doubled its advantage before halftime thanks to a penalty kick in the 32nd Senior Tahelah Noel (Buffalo, N.Y./Christian Central Academy) was taken down inside the top of the box for the penalty, and stepped up herself to take the spot kick, calmly knocking it into the upper left to give Valpo a two-goal lead.
- The second half was more evenly matched, as Valpo held just a 12-8 advantage in the shots category. After not getting a shot on goal in the first 45 minutes, the Cougars put four on frame in the second half.
- CSU cut the Valpo lead in half in the 68th minute on a penalty kick of its own following a Valpo handball in the box off a corner. Sara Quevedo converted for the Cougars to make it a 2-1 game.
- Chicago State had a look to tie the game with just a minute left in regulation, but Julia Oliveira’s shot rang off the left post as Valpo retained the lead and came out with the victory.
Inside the Game
- Wednesday was Valpo’s first match since an MVC Tournament fixture against Drake on Nov. 4, 2019.
- Valpo played inside a dome for a regular-season match for the first time in program history.
- Valpo has won three of its last four season openers.
- James’ goal got Valpo on the board just 6:53 into the match, the fastest goal to open a season in program history.
- The tally also meant that James opened her Valpo account less than seven minutes into her collegiate career. It is the quickest a Valpo freshman has scored their first collegiate goal since current senior Lauren Torhorst (Waterford, Wis./Waterford Union) came off the bench in the 2017 season opener against Grace and scored just 64 seconds later.
- Noel’s goal was the fourth of her Valpo career and marked her first career match-winning goal.
- Valpo ended the match with a 24-10 advantage in shots and put 10 on goal to Chicago State’s four. Freshman goalkeeper Nikki Coryell (Aurora, Ill./Metea Valley) registered three saves in her debut to earn the victory.
- Coryell and James were joined by fellow rookie Lindsey Dusatko (Plainfield, Ill./North) in the starting XI on Wednesday as three freshmen started their first collegiate match. Fellow rookies Cassidy Eckstein (Carmel, Ind./Carmel), Chase Ray (Bellevue, Ohio/Bellevue), Payton Strausberger (Plainfield, Ill./North) and Gabby Zalot (Levittown, Pa./Pennsbury) all made their collegiate debuts Wednesday as well.
- Sophomores Kiley Dugan (Irwin, Pa./Penn-Trafford) and Nicole Norfolk (Menomonee Falls, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) and junior Morgen Metzger (Grand Blanc, Mich./Grand Blanc) each started their 19th consecutive match, while Norfolk extended her consecutive minutes played streak to 1,749 minutes.
- While everyone on Valpo’s roster has been eager to get back to competition, maybe no player was happier to step back on the pitch than senior Keegan Maris (Batavia, Ill./Batavia), who played all 90 minutes at left back Wednesday. Maris returned to the lineup after getting injured early in the 2018 season and missing the entirety of 2019, making Wednesday her first match in 885 days.
Thoughts From Coach Marovich
“It was great to get back on the pitch for the first time in 15 months. I was so proud of the team for how they reacted to all the moments in the match. We hit the mark on how we wanted to play today from a defending and pressing standpoint.”
“It was great to see the team get rewarded for their hard work with two goals in the first half. We had lots of positives today, but also some things that we need to get on the training ground and work through. The way we handled difficult situations late in the game to see out the match shows how strong our mental game has come over the pandemic break.”
Thoughts From the Players
Keegan Maris, on her first game in two and a half years: “It’s so meaningful, after all this time away from competitive matches, to just be back on the field and competing with my best friends.”
Kiley Dugan, on her performance today: “I have gained so much confidence over the break which allows me to be more involved in possession, and I feel like I am making a bigger contribution to the team.”
Kelsie James, on her first collegiate goal: “It was an incredible feeling - I have been waiting so long to play for this program, and to be able to contribute to the win with my first goal means everything to help my team get a win.”
Tahelah Noel, on her penalty kick: “I knew the importance of the second goal would be huge. I just calmed down and didn't think much about it, I relied on the practice I've put in on them.”
Kiera Pratt: “I'm so impressed with the improvements the team has made. Our work this fall was super influential to our development today.”
Lauren Torhorst: “We had a plan coming into today, and we executed it - we were composed throughout the game. Our freshmen have really bought into our program and were a big part of today's result.”
Valpo (1-0-0) will return to action next Wednesday with a neutral-site matchup against UNI in Rockford, Ill. Kickoff that day is slated for 1 p.m.