It’s hard to know what to take away from a game like this. Training camp only opened a week ago, and out of the projected starting lineup my AWK colleague Chris Henderson put together, only four players got minutes – Kika Toulouse, Tiffany McCarty, Stephanie Ochs, and Caroline Miller. It was really more of a chance for the second tier of players to show their stuff, as head coach Mike Jorden admitted. “After one week of camp we wanted to bring some kids in and give them a shot at playing a game like this. I think we were looking for seeing individual players playing different places and moving a couple of kids around.”
Penn State head coach Erica Walsh was impressed with the Spirit roster, even as she noted that they obviously had yet to gel into a team. “I think this was a team playing against players who were trying to get onto a team. I think that was a big difference. It’s a group of individuals that are incredibly talented, and you can see that each of them has their own attributes and that this is going to be a great team once they come together.”
Second-half sub Olivia Wagner provided the lone goal in the 86th minute, an opportunistic putaway as Ariana Calderon – another sub – slipped the ball to her after a corner kick. “It was just bouncing around in the box, and that’s always dangerous, and I was able to get a foot on it, so I’m glad we finally put one away.”
That was after many, many attempts that didn’t make it in. “We had about 25 chances before that one happened,” said Wagner. “I think we hit every inch of those posts.” It was generally either that or the legs of the tenacious Penn State defenders, who rarely gave Spirit attackers a good look at goal.
Meanwhile, at the other end, backup goalkeeper Chantel Jones kept the Spirit in the match, twice facing US U-20 WNTer Maya Hayes one-on-one, and twice stuffing her shots. “She just got behind them,” said Jones. “She’s a very good player, a very fast player. I just tried to give myself the best position possible and make a play and luckily I was able to keep it out of the net for the team because that could have been a dagger, to give up a goal that late in the game.”
Jorden was satisfied with the team’s performance at this stage. “I think the good thing for us was how well we played and how well we moved the ball around, possessed the ball. I was happy with that. I’m happy with the way we played.”
The best outcome on the day, though, might have been the attendance, as an impressive 671 fans showed up on a chilly day with rain threatening to see a meaningless preseason game with none of the marquee players having joined the team yet.
But just wait until the “names” show up – even the players are looking forward to that. Chantel Jones’ eyes lit up when asked about the opportunity to play alongside Ali Krieger. “Yes, and Ashlyn. I can’t wait for them to get here. I can learn so much from them, having Ali and Candace Chapman. They have so much experience, they can help me a lot. I’m excited to train with Ashlyn because she’s one of the best in the world. She’ll push me to be better every day, so I’m excited.”
The allocated players arrive this coming week, and the first opportunity to see them will be this coming Sunday, as Washington takes on Duke at 3 pm at the Soccerplex.
Ochs (45’ Williams) – McCarty (64’ Brandt) – Mischler (30’ Miller)
Roberts (55’ Wagner) – Hodak – Wells (70’ Calderon)
Weigel (45’ Siegel, but Hodak moved here) – Toulouse – Anderson (70’ Cooke) – Hubka