The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s soccer team remains unbeaten in Southern Conference action with a 2-1 win over Western Carolina Sunday afternoon at the UTC Sports Complex.
The Mocs improve to 3-0-1 overall and 2-0-1 against the league while Western Carolina falls to 1-3 in SoCon play and 2-5 overall.
Chattanooga mounted a comeback for the second straight match after falling behind 1-0 in the 27th minute.
Western Carolina’s Regan Ward picked up the ball at midfield and dribble down the middle halfway toward the goal before pushing the ball off the outside of her right foot to teammate Maggie Lloyd. With just one touch on the ball, Lloyd was inside the 18-yard box and sent her shot to the far side of the net, under a diving Abbey Saddler to give the Cats the advantage.
It wouldn’t take long for the equalizer.
Chattanooga subbed in six players, including senior Emily Szymanski, on a warm late winter afternoon, immediately after the goal.
“The turf was hot – 70 degrees – so we used a lot of players,” Mocs head coach Gavin McKinney said. “We tried to keep the group fresh and it paid off for us in the end.”
The Mocs trailed the Catamounts for less than a minute. Faith Gober fed a brilliant through ball between a pair of Western Carolina defenders to Szymanski. With just one touch on the ball, she was ahead of the defenders and shot the ball low, under a sliding Catamount keeper from about 15 yards out and into the bottom right corner of the net to tie it up 1-1 in the 28th minute.
“That’s what you want, right?” McKinney said. “It was a really good ball, E’s movement was good, the finish was for us. Phenomenal response when your team goes down 1-nil to equalize that quick.”
It looked like the Mocs would get their second goal in the 59th minute. After freshman Ao Yamada had a dead center shot saved, she came back a few minutes later from nearly the same spot and fired off a shot that hit off the cross bar.
Ten minutes later the Mocs got what would prove to be the game winner from Kendra Mueller on a scramble in the box.
Senior Shelby Hash brought the ball down the right side and served us a pass in the box to Szymanski. Her defender deflected the pass and Mueller picked it up as she entered the box. She made hard contact with the ball before getting taken down by two Catamounts. The ball hit off a defenders raised leg and over the keeper for the score.
“It did seem to be a kind of scramble,” McKinney said of the game winner. “Kendra made a movement into the box. It looks like she hit it and then there was a deflection and then lucky for us, it ended up in the back of the net.
“I thought it was coming for us right before then. Ao Yamada hit the crossbar and we created some really good chances.”
Chattanooga outshot the Catamounts 11-9 with a 7-4 shots on goal advantage. Mocs’ keeper Abbey Saddler picked up her first win of the season with three saves while Natalie Icen had five saves.
The Mocs’ Chloe Arnold had three shots with one on goal, Yamada and Osa Iyare had two apiece, each with one on goal while four more Chattanooga players sent a shot toward the net. Lloyd had a game-high four shots and five Western Carolina players each recorded one.
The Mocs will hit the road next weekend to take on undefeated Furman Friday night in Greenville at 7:00 p.m. followed by a Sunday matchup at Wofford.