Wednesday, 03 July 2013 10:20
The Long Island Rough Riders seized their last chance to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot with a 1-0 win over the Washington Spirit Reserves. In a technically strong, high-paced game, a Grace Hawkins goal at 78 minutes decided the match against the Reserves who looked like the stronger side for the majority of the game.
The match proved to be the expected high-class meeting between two strong sides. Early in the game, both teams impressed the audience with quick passing and battled for control over the midfield. Tiffany Brown’s attempt at 16 minutes started a 30-minute attacking phase for the Reserves. Her header at 35 minutes still missed the goal but three minutes later, Rough Riders goalkeeper Diana Poulin saw some work coming her way. Brown’s shot from the top of the box was an easy catch for Poulin. When Molly Menchel aimed for the left upper 90, the Rough Riders goalie had to show all her skills to tip the ball over the crossbar.
The Rough Riders had their most dangerous moment of the first half in the 42nd minute when Grace Hawkins’ through ball was just a little bit too fast for Gabby Charno who had made a run up the field. Poulin came up with another excellent play to save Alex Doll’s shot from the left angle, keeping game scoreless going into half time.
Washington was eager to keep the Rough Riders out of the playoff range and entered the second half strong. Doll beat Kerry Ann O’Conner on her left flank but was stopped in the last moment by Charno. With a collective defensive effort, the home team was able to survive the dangerous 15 minutes after the break.
In the Rough Riders’ best phase of the game, Amanda Epstein’s shot in the 60th minute missed the goal and Marissa Mertens was too surprised to react when the ball landed in front of her feet after a cross at 64 minutes.
Two minutes later, the Reserves took over again but O’Connor blocked Danielle Hubka and Hayley Siegel’s shots from inside the penalty area. The home fans held their breath when Katie Yensen broke through on her left flank but Poulin was there to keep her side in the game.
The next and last dangerous Rough Riders moment came at 78 minutes when Grace Hawkins was given some space on the right flank. She received a deflected ball, fired a low shot to the left corner of the goal past Reserves goalkeeper Dijana Haracic to give the Rough Riders the 1-0 lead.
The visitors tried everything in the search for the equalizer and tested the Rough Riders’ defense multiple times in the remaining 10 minutes of the game. Kelsey Pardue chipped the ball past Poulin at 85 minutes, narrowly missing the net. The Rough Riders goalie had to come up with a clutch save when Yensen fired a ball from 18 yards out with two minutes remaining on the clock. Hubka had the final opportunity of the game when she shot the ball over the crossbar in stoppage time.
This win keeps the Rough Riders’ playoff hopes alive. They are still in third place in the Northeastern Conference with now 15 points. The Washington Spirit Reserves remain in second place with 18 points.