HIGH POINT, N.C. – After taking visiting VCU to the brink on Thursday, High Point University women’s soccer took its first loss of the season on a late tally from the Rams. Both sides remained scoreless until the final minute, until the visiting side capitalized on a scoring chance inside the box for a 1-0 victory over the Purple & White.
“It’s disappointing to get that loss tonight,” said Head Coach Brandi Fontaine in postgame. “It was a tough loss but overall I was really happy with how we played. We spent the whole week working on our defensive shape and knew what was coming, which was a lot of crossing into the box. I thought we defended very, very well and unfortunately just gave away something loose at the end. But overall I was very proud of how we performed tonight.”
Coming off a preseason draw that produced six goals on the afternoon, the Panthers’ regular season opener resulted in a defensive struggle that ended a single goal in favor of the visiting Rams. Facing 21 shots over the course of the evening, starting goalkeeper Talia Klimes turned away six shots on net from Virginia Commonwealth offense before finally surrendering a tally in the 90th minute, coming within a minute of sending the match to overtime.
Taking 21 shots in total, VCU was held quiet through the majority of regulation with the High Point defense continuing to force arid shots from the pressing Rams. While the visitors created multiple shots from around the 18, the HPU backline refused to give the Rams a clear shot on goal, with defenders Allie Reagan and Shaylyn Owen playing a total of 90 minutes apiece.
The Panthers’ greatest opportunity in the match came on a first half counter attack, after VCU’s loss of possession sparked a scoring opportunity for substitutes Charla Ward and Alex Denny. Making a run down the left side of the field for more than 30 yards, Ward delivered a perfectly timed ball to a streaking Denny, who was just half a step behind finishing the go ahead goal.
Freshman Chloe Winn recorded the Panthers’ lone shot of the afternoon, delivering a strike from the top of the 18 just a minute after checking back into the match in the 64th. The attempt forced the VCU keeper off her line, but the velocity of Winn’s shot was not enough to beat the Rams’ goaltender, and the score remained stalemated at nil to nil.
With overtime looming in the 89th minute, Commonwealth received a disputed throw in what led to the eventual game-winner. Forward Emma Kushner received the ball back into the field of play at the top left corner of the six-yard box, before placing a low driving shot just inside the right post, to give the visiting side a 1-0 decision.
“…This is a team [VCU] that took us 3-1 last year,” said Fontaine. “We spend so much time on the defensive side of things. We’re just a much different team now. There’s a lot more confidence, there’s a lot more to build on. I’m excited about this start and to be playing VCU in our opening game and to challenge them at this level I just think it speaks volumes about what the rest of the year looks like for us.”
Eight Panther newcomers made their debut in Purple & White in Thursday’s loss. Freshman Connor Pratt received her first career start for second-year Head Coach Brandi Fontaine, while transfer Juliette Vidal turned in 76 minutes on the pitch.
COMING UP NEXT
The Panthers prepare for their first road contest of the season, traveling to nearby Elon this Sunday. HPU’s previous meeting with the Phoenix ended in a 0-0 draw at home in the Vert, where Klimes made, what was at the time, a career-high eight saves over 65 minutes of play.