Watch one post game interview with University of Cincinnati women’s soccer head coach Neil Stafford and you’ll know he and his teams have mentality.
Their mentality allows them to come through in any adverse time, even one caused by weather.
After waiting out a 56-minute lightning delay that started less than 15 minutes into the game, the Bearcats overcame a one-goal deficit by scoring two in a span of less than five minutes in the second half, including the game-winner by freshman midfielder Brandi Thomsen, to lift them to a 2-1 win over the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels.
“What a strange night it was,” head coach Neil Stafford said. “Going down a goal so I think with a young team that kind of rattled us a little bit. It was a really ugly game and that’s not a knock on the teams it was more the weather conditions and the standing water and everything else. Considering how young we are, the adversity we faced and everything, I’m very proud of the way we grit through all that stuff.”
The adverse conditions began to surface midway through the second half with the Bearcats still down by a goal but that’s when their energetic attack finally paid off.
Sophomore defender and midfielder, Kiki Lowell, perfectly headed a Jill Vetere free kick out of the air past EKU freshman goalkeeper Billie Clark to tie the score at one in the 64th minute.
Less than five minutes later the Bearcats were given good fortune from Thomsen as the Wisconsin women’s soccer Gatorade Player of the Year stayed with the loose ball in the monsoon and was able to send it past Clark for the Bearcats’ first lead of the night, one they would not relinquish.
Thomsen duplicated a feat accomplished by now sophomore forward and midfielder Sophie Gorman last year where she, as a freshman,scored the game-winning goal in the Bearcats’ season-opener.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Thomsen said. “Whatever I can do to help the team that’s what I’m going to do. I wasn’t expecting that.”
She may not have been expecting the game-winning goal but she does expect to face adversity at times throughout the season like tonight.
“It was just something, we have to deal with adversity sometimes,” Thomsen said. “I think we never gave up and we just kept pushing. It was cool to see us handle adversity that way.”
After losing six seniors due to graduation from a team that had the Bearcats at No. 11 at one point in the RPI rankings last year, Stafford entered his sixth season with a team packed with young talent.
Six true freshman saw action in Thursday night’s match and three were part of the Starting XI in forward Vanessa DiNardo, defender/forward Annie Metzger and forward/defender Camryn Hartman.
“We’re really proud when kids are called upon and they stand up and deliver on their opportunity,” Stafford said.
The next opportunity is a match next Sunday at the University of Virginia, who currently sits at No. 8 in the RPI rankings.
“Anytime you got a team like Virginia they’re going to show you what you’re made of,” Stafford said. “We’re excited for these opportunities. These are opportunities to learn, to grow, to get better. We know that every game this season is not going to be perfect, we’re going to be down a goal, we’re going to lose some games. It’s just about growing, maturing and understanding exactly what happened and just moving on from there.”
The match in Charlottesville, Virgina on Sunday will get underway at 5 p.m..