A pair of second half goals from junior and senior midfielders Martha Stevens and co-captain Cara Cutaia propelled the Eastern Michigan University women’s soccer team to a 3-2 come from behind victory over the University of Detroit Mercy Titans in the season opener at Scicluna Field.
The critical moment was when junior midfielder Martha Stevens connected on a header to score the game-winning goal for the Eagles in the 68th minute of the game, receiving a perfect cross from senior midfielder Stephanie Clarke.
“In my head, I was just freaking out saying ‘get your head on it, just get your head on it,” Stevens said about her first goal of the season. “I told Stephanie [Clarke] to just keep sending that cross across and I’ll get my head on it and that’s what happened.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Megan McCabe stopped five of the seven shots she faced to earn the victory for EMU (1-0), while sophomore goalkeeper Martha Dunbar had four saves on seven shots for UDM (0-1). The Eagles outshot the Titans 18-14.
Detroit struck first on an early goal from redshirt junior midfielder Haley Burtraw in the game’s seventh minute. Junior defenseman Alyssa Lotito chipped a ball over the head of the Eagle defense and found Burtraw, who slotted it in the bottom right corner of the goal to put the Titans up 1-0.
But Eastern was able to battle back and in the 23rd minute, Cutaia sent a pass through the Titan defense and found Vultaggio, who made a quick step through a diving Dunbar and tucked the ball into the empty net to even the game at one.
Both teams continued to test the goalkeepers with shots, but failed to break the tie, as the game went to the half at one goal apiece.
In the second half, it was the Titans who were able to score first again, this time in the 59th minute on Burtraw’s second goal of the game.
The confidence and drive of the Eagles never wavered as Cutaia was able to knock in the equalizer in the 63rd minute. Dunbar mishandled an incoming cross and, as the ball bounced around the Titans penalty spot area, Cutaia was able to clean it up and bring the game to a 2-2 tie.
“Our midfielders and our forwards were connecting a lot better than we had in the past,” Cutaia said on her team’s performance. “We have really good team chemistry and started putting on a clinic in the final third.”
That chemistry paid off again just five minutes later, when Clarke sent a high cross from the right side of the pitch that found Stevens on the far post. Stevens used her head to drive the ball past the keeper to give the Eagles the decisive 3-2 lead.
The midfield held strong possession from then on and the defense stifled any chances the Titans had in the waning minutes of the game to secure the victory.
“Overall, our style of play is what we wanted, now it’s just about becoming quicker and sharper when defending and attacking,” Hall said. “The majority of this team has been playing two to three years, so they know you can’t get too high or low within a game. They held their composure, got the goals that we needed and got the result.”
The Eagles will begin a four game road trip by heading to Columbus, Ohio to take on the 23rd ranked Ohio State Buckeyes this Sunday, Aug. 25.
EMU’s next home game will not be until Sept. 15, when they take on the Michigan State University Spartans at Scicluna Field.
Follow Josh Dye on Twitter @Jdye1214