Freshman forward Emily Longden scored a goal in her first college soccer game and freshmen Erin Zerio and Ally Marler combined for a shutout in a 1-0 win over Austin Peay Friday night at the Lipscomb Sports Complex.
“First of all, we have been talking about defending our home turf, which is something we have struggled with in the past,” said Lady Bisons coach Jon Ireland, who was on the verge of losing his voice following the win. “We want to make this a difficult place to play. There was an awesome turnout by the crowd.
“We worked so hard in the preseason in terms of the amount of hours. A lot of our freshmen stepped up huge.”
It was the first time the Lady Bisons have won a season opener under Ireland, who started his third season. It was the first time the Lady Bisons have won a season opener since beating South Carolina State 6-1 Aug. 28 in 2004. The only other season opening win came on the Lady Bisons home field, a 2-1 victory over Martin Methodist in 2002.
“The last two years we have put in the work, but we didn’t always get the pay day,” said Ireland. “It is so rewarding to see the faces of our players after the game and see that the hard work is paying off.
“Finally, we have added some pieces to the puzzle. They players are starting to believe. And when you believe anything can happen.”
It was the first time the Lady Bisons had beaten Austin Peay a 1-0 shutout at Lipscomb in 2002. The Lady Bisons are 2-5-1 against Austin Peay overall.
“We knocked the ball around well at times,” said Ireland. “We have a lot to work on. I want the players to know it is great to win, but we have to get better. If we don’t get better it is going to be a long season. We have a lot to work on.”
Ireland has talked in the past about limiting the shots on goal by opposing teams. His defenders did just that holding Austin Peay to nine shots with only three shots on goal, a program record low for the Lady Bisons.
“Overall, defensively, we were smothering,” said Ireland. “It was not only the number of shots, but the quality of shots. Our goalies did not have to face a lot of dangerous opportunities.”
Longden scored at the 13:04 mark of the first half. Kate Spellman, the Lady Bisons leader in assists last season, gave the helping foot on Longden’s goal.
The Lady Bisons attempted 15 shots, seven of them were shots on goal. Sophomore midfielder Danielle Bethke led the Lady Bisons with three shots, including one shot on goal.
“They were all over Kate,” said Ireland. “We knew some other people were going to have to step up. Danielle did a great job up top. “I think Emily and Kate will be a dangerous combination. Kate is going to create stuff for sure.”
Ireland was especially pleased with the play of Zerio and Marler. Zerio played the first half and made two saves. Marler started the second half and made one stop.
“They both did really well,” said Ireland. “We felt it was important for them to play 45 minutes each instead of having the pressure of a 90-minute game on their shoulders. They didn’t have a ton to do, but when they had to come out they came out strong. They stepped up big.”
Ireland said that talk around the conference has been what the Lady Bisons would do to replace veteran standout Katie Shelton in goal. “I think people are going to be very surprised,” said Ireland. “We have two good goalkeepers.
“Everyone we play is going to question our freshmen goaltenders. A game like this is only going to give them more confidence.”