A pair of second-half goals helped the Eastern Michigan women’s soccer team clinch its spot in the 2013 Mid-American Conference tournament, with a 2-0 victory over Kent State University on Oct. 20 at Zoeller Field.
Sophomore goalkeeper Megan McCabe was stellar in net for EMU (9-6-1, 6-2-0 MAC), stopping all five shots she faced and earning her third shutout of the season. Junior forwards Angela Vultaggio and Bianca Rossi each scored for the Eagles, while Vultaggio and senior midfielder Cara Cutaia were accredited with assists.
“The way we defended, the midfielders and defense in front of Megan [McCabe] did a real good job with our gameplan,” said EMU coach Scott Hall.
For Kent State (10-6-0, 5-3-0 MAC), sophomore goalkeeper Stephanie Senn stopped five of the seven shots sent her way in the loss. On offense, the Golden Flashes outshot the Eagles 19-15 in total shots, but EMU held the advantage on shots on target, 7-5, and dominated in corner kicks, 7-3.
Kent State earned the first opportunity of the game in the 10th minute, when freshman midfielder Abbie Lawson let a shot rip, but McCabe was there to keep the game scoreless.
The play had just began to settle in when a flurry of opportunities nearly led to goals for both sides.
In the 24th minute, Vultaggio tallied the first shot on goal for Eastern, but Senn made the save and, in turn, sprung a Kent State counterattack that was capped by senior forward Jessacca Gironda’s dangerous shot on net. But McCabe was there again for EMU, making the save and springing an Eagles counterattack, resulting in a Rossi shot that was saved by Senn.
The two conference foes couldn’t have played the first half any more even, as both squads accounted for seven shots total, two shots on target, and three fouls. EMU held a distinct advantage in corner kicks, 6-1, in the first 45 minutes, but the Eagles could not capitalize on their opportunities and the game went into the break tied at zero.
The second half started right where the first left off, seeing the teams trade shots on goal, with both goalkeepers making timely saves for their club.
However, EMU finally broke the Kent State defense with some crisp passing in the 58th minute. Vultaggio and Cutaia teamed up to find an open Rossi in the middle of the KSU box and the forward cracked a shot into the upper left corner of the goal, scoring her sixth goal of the season and giving EMU the 1-0 lead.
“I think we are starting to find a little groove again,” Hall said of his offense. “It’s kind of a ‘pick your poison’ with some of the players we have. If you slow one down, we have a couple others that can really hurt you.”
Kent State nearly drew even with EMU just seconds after the goal, when Lawson found some space and let another dangerous shot go, but McCabe kept her composure and came up with the big save.
The teams swapped shots on goal and corner kick opportunities, as the game headed toward the final 10 minutes with EMU holding the 1-0 lead, until the 80th minute, when a timely run led to some EMU fortune.
Vultaggio got in behind the Kent State defense and was headed toward goal, when KSU senior defenseman Morgan Mah yanked Vultaggio down inside the 18-yard box. The referee issued a red card to Mah, forcing the Golden Flashes to play with 10 players for the remainder of the game, and awarded Eastern with a penalty shot.
Vultaggio stepped up to take the kick and had her initial shot saved by Senn, but the forward cleaned up the rebound, tucking the loose ball into the open net and giving EMU a 2-0 with just 10 minutes left to play.
From that point on, the Eagles defense clamped down as they did not allow another Golden Flashes shot on net, and secured the 2-0 victory, moving Eastern into a tie for first place in the MAC West standings.
“In this conference, things change weekend-by-weekend so quickly,” Hall said. “Our juniors and seniors have been through this, we just gotta take care of our business and worry about the rest after.”
For her outstanding efforts over the weekend, McCabe was awarded MAC Defensive Player of the Week, her third this season, stopping 12 shots and conceding zero goals in two games combined.
With the assist, Cutaia increased her points total to a team-leading 23, which is tied for second best in the conference.
Eastern returns to Scicluna Field for their final homestand of the season. EMU hosts the University at Buffalo on Friday, Oct. 25, at 3 p.m. before the University of Akron comes to town for Senior Day on Oct. 27, in which the five senior Eagles will be recognized in their final regular season contest.
Follow Josh Dye on Twitter: @JdyeEMUEcho.