Friday, August 19, 2016

Fordham and DePaul battle to a 1-1 draw in the season opener

                Photo Credit: Steve Woltmann/DePaul Athletics

With the sun beaming directly on a summer afternoon at Wish Field in Chicago, The Fordham Rams and the DePaul Blue Demons left everything on the field in a 1-1 draw on Friday to open the regular season for each team.

Fordham opened the scoring on a fluke deflection from DePaul goalkeeper Lauren Fresca as Claire Paoletta scored on an empty netter in the 20th minute for the game's first goal.

In a seven-minute stretch from the 26th to 33rd, DePaul made three substitutions in an effort to shake up its offensive attack.

The substitutions did not improve the Blue Demons' scoring opportunities, but in the 39th minute on a free kick, a header from defender Avery Hay went over the crossbar as Fordham went into halftime in full control at 1-0.

DePaul coach Erin Chastain knew things needed to change after Fordham controlled possession for the majority of the first half.

"Fordham outworked us in the first half and looked like they really wanted to win the game more than we did," Chastain said.

DePaul showed more assertiveness in the early stages of the second half with scoring chances from midfielder Alexa Ben (55th minute) and forward Kelli Hubly (58th minute), but those shots went wide and up top of the net, respectively.

Defender Kassandra Cerda went untouched on the left side of the field for DePaul on a scoring chance in the 65th minute as goalkeeper Megan Fitzgerald made the timely save to keep Fordham ahead by a goal.

One of the things the Blue Demons wanted to address in the off-season were the lack of execution on corner kicks. In the 80th minute, forward Franny Cerny anchored both of the plays as the first opportunity proved to be unsuccessful, but seconds later, the other chance resulted moments later in a penalty kick.

DePaul forward Abby Reed took the shot and drilled the ball past a diving Fitzgerald to even the score at 1-1 in the 80th minute.

"We worked on penalty kicks the previous day, so I was ready for the moment and was focused because I knew there was not much time left in regulation," Reed said. "We were getting so close to scoring and I thought it was a great opportunity." 

Chastain gave credit to the Blue Demons for getting six corner kicks overall, with four coming in the second half.

"We did a good job in earning corner kicks and then getting on the end of them and creating problems for other teams," Chastain said.

The goal helped push DePaul into the first overtime at 1-1 and Reed almost struck again in the last five seconds of the period with a wicked 40-yard shot from the center, which went above the top of the crossbar off the tip of Fitzgerald's glove.

"I knew time was running out, so I figured I might as well take a hit on goal and it actually ended up being a really good shot," Reed said.

Each team finished with a shot on goal in the second overtime session as the game finished in a draw.

Looking Ahead:

Fordham will stay in Chicago and head further north to play Loyola on Aug. 21 at 1 p.m., while DePaul hosts crosstown rival Northwestern on Aug. 25 at 3 p.m.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.