The Eastern Michigan University soccer team began the defense of its Mid-American Conference regular season title Friday with a 2-0 win over the Fordham University Rams at Scicluna Field.
The Eagles played to a draw in their first exhibition game against the University of Detroit Mercy Titans and defeated the Butler University Bulldogs 2-1 in the second friendly.
Scott Hall – entering his 16th season as coach of the Eagles – was impressed with his team’s win.
“It’s great – it’s always good to get a victory,” he said. “You’re always not sure – you play some exhibition games, but you want to get the jitters out I thought we did today.”
Senior forward Angela Vultaggio (25’) and senior defender Emily Dzik (67’) scored the goals for Eastern (1-0, 0-0 MAC) while junior goalkeeper Megan McCabe stopped the only two shots on goal she faced.
For Fordham (0-1, 0-0 Atlantic 10 Conference), goalkeepers Ally White and Megan Fitzgerald split time, each giving up a goal.
McCabe said she felt good about the shutout.
“It feels great,” she said. “This game is a big game for us. We started off slow, built our momentum and we scored a goal in the first half and second half. As the game went on, we progressed and we got better and better. It was a great start for us.”
Dzik said McCabe’s shutout should be a sign of things to come from the Eagles.
“It feels awesome for Meg [to get the shutout] and I’m so happy for her – she’s been kicking butt and working really hard all season,” she said. “I think there’s going to be many more shutouts coming from her. She’s very good at making crazy saves, she’s super athletic, so I think there’s going to be a lot more shutouts and I think this was a good start to lead her into the season.”
Hall said that between McCabe’s shutout, and the potential of the team’s other goalkeeper, redshirt junior Jenna O’Dell, there might be a little bit of a competition in net this season.
“I thought she [McCabe] was great,” he said. “It’s been tough because we have two great goalies. Training’s been great – both of them have been super competitive, but I thought today that she [McCabe] took hold of the game, not really too many problems, came out on a couple of balls [which] I thought was good, distribution’s getting better, so we’re getting there.”
Dzik said the team looks for ways to get defenders the ball and score.
“From the back in order to be able to score is something we always work on, so it’s good to see that pay off and hopefully have that happen a lot more this season,” she said.
Late in the second half, Vultaggio nearly missed scoring her second goal on an acrobatic move in front of the net. Another opportunity was missed on an errant pass from redshirt sophomore midfielder Ellie Tillar. Sophomore forward Michelle Rollins missed a close shot in the second half, as well.
Hall said despite the missed opportunities, the team got the win and he’s optimistic that those chances will materialize later.
“Unfortunately, it’s so much easier to organize the defense – and the offense, you’re trying to pick up a little bit,” he said. “We’ve created a lot of opportunities in all three games. I’m a little disappointed that we haven’t put all of our chances away, but again I guess if you’re creating them, it’s going to come. At this point, we’re not giving away goals – we’re creating chances.”
The Eagles take on the Indiana University Hoosiers Sunday at Scicluna. Last year, the Eagles lost to the Hoosiers, 1-0.
Hall said his team will have to improve to be competitive Sunday.
“It was a 1-0 game last year – they’re going to be tough,” he said. “We’ve got to take it up another level to get at them. I thought Fordham today did a good job – they were very organized, they had a couple good players out wide. Indiana’s got pace, strength, speed, physical play – I mean there’s the full package. Luckily we’ve got them here at Scicluna Field, which will be a blast to get a Big Ten team to come in here and play, so we’re just excited – we’re excited to get in here and play these big teams. I think we get better the better other teams play.”
Dzik said her team will have something to prove against the Hoosiers.
“Our expectations are to do a lot better than we did last year,” she said. “We’re hoping to stay more composed, have an upset and win at home and just show them that last year was just a hiccup and this year we’re back and better than ever.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho