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by Nick Fattori

After giving up a 2-1 lead late and eventually losing to then ranked 17th Maryland last week 4-2, the women’s soccer team came into this weekend still looking for their first win after a draw and loss to start the season.

Last Friday night they battled tough against Drexel University, but drew 1-1. However, they absolutely dominated Lehigh University on Sunday 2-0. The Wildcats moved to 1-1-2 on the season.

In the first game this weekend, the ’Cats made the short trek into the city to play the Drexel Dragons. Coming into the game ’Nova was still looking for their first win, while Drexel had both won and lost one.

The Wildcats dominated the game early on as they took control within the first fifteen minutes. Former forward turned defender, sophomore Renee Hart hit the post in the 13th minute. Off the rebound, freshman forward Katie Martin found the ball and calmly buried the ball in the back of the net.

Following the score by Martin, the ’Cats continued to dominate. They held the Dragons to only one shot the entire first half.

The ’Nova defense continued to overpower Drexel in the second half, but finally in the 60th minute, the Dragons broke through. Junior midfielder Megan Hammaker found  freshman forward Shyanne Kimbrough, who slid the ball past senior goalie Jami Kranich.

Both teams struggled to finish out strong, and the game went to overtime.

The ’Cats attack pressured Drexel for most of the 10-minute overtime and with three seconds remaining in the overtime freshman midfielder Caroline Brown nearly won the game with a shot from distance, but Drexel’s junior goalie Eve Badana made a great save to extend the game.

’Nova continued to control the ball but could not beat Badana., finishing in a draw.

The ’Cats finished with a 13-8 advantage in total shots and forced Badana to make eight saves on the night. Kranich was relatively unscathed during the match and only had to make one save.

After the draw last week they had a quick turnaround against Lehigh, Sunday at afternoon at the West Campus Soccer Complex, as both teams looked for their first win. ’Nova carried over its dominating play from Friday and came out of the gates guns blazing.

They pushed numbers forward early trying to put as much pressure on the Mountain Hawks backline as possible. After a few close misses from distance, ’Nova finally was able to break through.

In the 18th minute, sophomore midfielder Emily Damstrom took a free kick from just outside the box which took a deflection straight to freshman forward Katie Martin who tapped the ball in from close range to put the ’Cats up 1-0, a lead which they held going into halftime.

Not only did the ’Cats completely dominate possession throughout the first half, but they also had complete control on the shot category. They outshot Lehigh 12-1 in the first forty-five minutes.

After a bit of a push from the Mountain Hawks to begin the second half, sophomore forward Reanna Marino found herself with a breakaway off a counter attack in the 54th minute, but was stonewalled by newly put in junior goalie Ashley Blanks.

Then, in the 77th minute off of a corner kick, junior midfielder Caitlin Forte found the head of freshman midfielder Caroline Martin to put the ’Cats up 2-0. That was the final tally for either team as the game finished in a 2-0 win for ‘Nova.

“We came out sharp and fired up and dictated the pace of the game,” said Coach John Byford. “We bounced back from Friday night in a game we thought we should have won and we played very well and hopefully this is the first win of many.”

The ’Cats outshot the Mountain Hawks 20-7. Jami Kranich finished with four saves and recorded her first shutout of the season.

‘Nova also played without half of its defense on Sunday. Rhea Barghash had a bruised foot and senior captain Taylor Houck broke her nose during the Drexel game.

With another goal on Sunday, Martin boosted her total to three in just four games, to go along with one assist. The 2013 Gatorade High School Player of the Year for the state of Texas has seamlessly transitioned perfectly from the high school game to the collegiate level.

“I have had to work extremely hard…and I’m just fortunate to be able to play as much as I do,” said Martin. “It’s nice scoring goals and being able to help out the team, but the whole team kind of helps out each other.”

The team will look to continue their success this weekend as they travel to James Madison and host Richmond next weekend.

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