BRYN MAWR, Pa. - The Bryn Mawr soccer team netted the dream start they were looking for to their 2016-17 campaign earlier Thursday afternoon on Applebee Field. The Owls showcased a brand new style in first-year coach Paul Stinson's debut, and it worked to perfection. Senior Katherine Nickols converted a penalty kick in the first half to give the hosts a 1-0 lead over visiting Cabrini, and then freshman Alexis Boutchie thrilled with a stunning breakaway goal in the second half to put the Owls ahead for good by a 2-1 score.
In what was a sign of things to come for the rest of the afternoon, the contest was entertaining right from the start. Eager to impress early on, the Owls broke right out of the gate looking for the lead, and they almost got it. Just under two minutes in, Fiona Steele drew a foul on the left wing, giving the Owls what was virtually a corner kick deep in the Cavaliers end. Steele swung in a perfect cross that found Nickols with some space right near the penalty spot. The senior raised up and got a clean header attempt off back across the goal, but it skirted just wide of the left post to give the visitors a repreive. Just a few minutes later, freshman Genevieve Main got her first good look at the goal as she was able to turn a cross from the right wing into a shot on goal. However, Cabrini's Gabby LeGendre was up to the task, blocking the effort with her body and collecting the rebound.
Momentum briefly swung in the direction of the Cavaliers over the middle portion of the first half, as the visitors were able to work the ball deep into the Bryn Mawr side and earn a couple of corner kick opportunities. In one of those instances, the ball bounced around dangerously in the box for what seemed like an eternity, but the Bryn Mawr defense was ultimately able to clear it out. The Owls continued to play solid defense throughout the game, as their press wreaked havoc with the Cabrini possession game and kept most of the danger away from the penalty box.
With time dwindling down in the first half, it was the Owls who finally broke the deadlock thanks to some strong individual work by Katherine Nickols. The senior midfielder gained control of the ball deep on the left side of the field just inside the penalty box. Using her body to shield defenders away, Nickols turned her back to the goal and looked to distribute. However, a Cabrini defender took a hack at the ball and caught Nickols on the calf, forcing her to tumble to the turf. The referee immediately whistled the infraction and pointed to the spot, awarding the Owls a penalty kick. It was Nickols who stepped up to the spot herself to take the kick, and deservedly so. The senior blasted a ball high into the middle of the net, catching LeGendre going the wrong way and giving Bryn Mawr a 1-0 lead in the contest.
Incredibly, Cabrini answered right back just minutes later with a goal of their own to tie things right back up. After a Bryn Mawr foul just at the edge of their own defensive third, junior Marisa Christensen stepped up to take the free kick. She sent a great ball into the left half of the penalty box, catching Brittany woodruff streaking past her marker. Woodruff took the ball in stride, collecting with a nice first touch and then firing just to the left of onrushing Owls keeper Leah Baer where it snuck just inside the left post. For all of the sides' efforts, both teams would end up going to the halftime break still deadlocked at 1-1.
Cabrini came out like a team possessed in the second half. The Cavaliers really dominated the first fifteen minutes of play in the frame, as they took seven shots and earned another corner kick just in that time period. However, the Bryn Mawr defense did a terrific job of bending but not breaking, doing just enough to clear each ball out of danger every time the visitors attacked. Despite facing the withering onslaught in that first quarter of an hour, the Owls held firm and the game still stayed tied heading into the final 30 minutes.
In that last half hour, things started to open up more for the Owls as they found their shape and ran their counterattack well. Some substitutions for both sides seemed to free the game up and the two teams found themselves playing more in the midfield. Baer came up huge with a save in the 68th minute against Cabrini's Taylor Tralie, as the Cavaliers' leading returning goalscorer from last season found herself with a great chance in front of the net. However, Baer came rushing out to cut off the angle and did a tremendous job of stopping the shot to keep the game tied.
That save from Baer seemed to inspire the Owls, as they immediately put together a strong counterattack. Bryn Mawr controlled play in their own half momentarily, looking for the key ball to unlock the Cavaliers defense. It was Nickols who ultimately did just that, as the senior found some space at the midfield line and was able to send a brilliant pass over the last Cabrini defender and into the final third. That was where Alexis Boutchie ran onto it, with the freshman doing a tremendous job to shield off her defender and secure a breakaway on goal. LeGendre was able to momentarily stymie Boutchie by coming off her line and blocking the first effort, but Boutchie was determined to power through. She collected the rebound and fired it in between two Cabrini defenders and into the netting, thrusting the Owls back ahead with just 20 minutes left to play in the game.
Much of that remaining time was spent with the Owls once again fighting off attack after relentless attack from the Cavaliers. With the clock dwindling away, the visitors became more and more desperate, with the final two minutes in particular being a relentless flurry in the Owls third. Kelsee Tironi had a chance to tie things back up with under a minute to play, but Baer came up huge once again to punch the ball across the goal line. With thirty seconds left, Cabrini earned two corner kicks, and the second nearly proved problematic for the Owls. Bryn Mawr appeared to have just barely squeaked out the win, clearing the ball into the right side of their penalty box with two seconds left. However, a Cabrini player was able to race over and whip a last-ditch cross into the air right in front of the goal. A Cavaliers forward rose above the crowd and headed the ball into the net seemingly simultaneously with the final horn sounding. However, the referee immediately waved off the goal as her effort had come just a fraction of a second too late, giving Bryn Mawr a tremendous 2-1 victory on the afternoon.
With the win, the Owls move to 1-0 to start their season. It is the first win of a season-opener since 2013, and the third win over Cabrini in program history. Bryn Mawr will look to keep the positive start going this weekend when they return to action against Goucher. The Gophers started their season strong Thursday evening as well with a good performance against Wesley. Both sides will be hoping to pick up a key non-conference win on Sunday, with the contest slated to start at 11:30 AM.