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Women’s Soccer: Ospreys only fare well against one breed of Bulldogs at UNF Tournament

The UNF women’s soccer team came out of the Hampton Inn Ponte Vedra Showcase with a record of 1-1 but not by a lack of an intense fan base.

Win or lose, the Ospreys had a dedicated crowd of up to 500 fans at each game this weekend. In the match against Mississippi State, a group of young girls had large posters with the letters UNF in bold writing and waved them around. At times they even ran in the bleachers to make sure their team knew they were behind them. Two days later in a match against The Citadel, all you were able to see is a sea of umbrellas on the blazing hot day.

“I am very proud of the way the team played throughout the tournament. We were able to turn things around for us later on in the weekend,” Head Coach Linda Hamilton said.

Of course the young fan base wouldn’t have missed day two either, yelling “Go Ospreys” as the team walked off the field with a win. Coming out of game two with a 4-2 win against The Citadel Bulldogs Sept. 20 at Hodges Stadium, UNF gained some much needed confidence.

Early in the game, things were out of the ordinary in the back for the Ospreys as sophomore goalie Brittany Hahn led her team while first string senior goalie Rachael Howard sat out with a minor injury.

Senior forward Katelin Swift also led her team on the field, as she scored two goals in the first half. The first goal involved sliding the ball through the Bulldog’s defense into the goal, and the second goal was off of a header from senior midfielder Kristin Rhodes.

“It was really exciting to score two goals this game,” Swift said. “The team’s main goal is to work hard at making it to conference.”

UNF played well as a team throughout the match as they made constant opportunities for each other to score, such as give-and-gos down the field and crossing the ball across the net to open players waiting to take a swing at the ball for a goal.

“I love winning, and I’m proud of the way the team played on this hot day,” Hamilton said. “We really stepped up today and made things happen.”

UNF wasn’t the only team to make things happen as the Bulldogs scored a goal in each half. The first goal was on a call Hamilton would say was offsides as a Citadel player crossed over the top behind the Osprey defense into the net. The second goal was followed by three consecutive shot attempts on goal. The ball finally penetrated the goal with persistence from the Bulldogs.

Another Osprey to score against the Bulldogs was freshman forward Michele Larrinaga, with a shot off of a deflection by the Bulldog’s goalie. The third UNF goal was set up by Swift and handed off to junior midfielder Lauren Maze later in the second half.

“This match was a great confidence builder as we move into conference play next week,” Hamilton said.

The not-so-favorite part of the tournament for UNF was the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, as they lost 1-0 Sept. 18.

UNF had a strong defensive line in the first half as the Bulldogs were unable to put points up on the board. Trapping the ball and controlling it in the air was a good component UNF had throughout the game.

“I don’t see this as a loss. It was a great game from both teams, and it was aggressive on both sides,” Hamilton said.

A player who really showed up to win was goalie Rachael Howard, as she made numerous saves to keep UNF in the game. The Bulldogs had six shots on net and six corner kicks in the first half alone, keeping Howard wide awake.

One of the saves was against Bulldogs forward Kat Walsh’s breakaway as Howard slid at her feet and stole the ball. Howard threw herself on top of the ball many times to prevent the Bulldogs from adding points to their score.

Even with Howard’s efforts, however, just minutes into the second half the Bulldogs managed to take an early lead with a shot on goal just inching past Howard’s reach. UNF was unable to even the match out for a win.

UNF will now begin their conference play and go head-to-head with the East Tennessee State Buccaneers in Johnson City, Tenn. Sept. 26.

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