Aug 23, 2013
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
Sophomore forward Anna Lail converted a penalty kick in the 66th minute, and freshman goalkeeper Jordan Cassalia pulled up with two key saves over the final 2:20 of the game as the Army women's soccer team held on to defeat Fairfield, 1-0, Friday evening at Clinton Field in the season debut for both teams.
First-year head coach Marcia McDermott's opening win on the Army sideline was witnessed by a crowd of 700-plus fans. She is the third Black Knight head coach to open their inaugural season on a winning note.
"Fairfield is an outstanding team," said McDermott. "They put a lot of pressure on you and have a very good style of play. I think that we did a good job of keeping our composure, trying to play our game and trying to match their physicality and their intensity. It was a very even game back and forth, but our team did a good job of holding possession and getting that first win."
The blanking is the third straight by the Black Knights, dating back to last year when they closed out the season on a two-game winning note. Army has outscored its last three opponents 7-0.
Following a scoreless first half with Army booting nine shots to four by the Stags, who were picked first in the preseason Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference poll, the Black Knights capitalized when Lail beat the keeper with a low shot into the left corner of the net. The goal is Lail's career third and second game winner.
"I always change and never go the same way," explained Lail, who was awarded the penalty kick after being taken down by the left post. " I wanted to take the shot because at that moment I was motivated. The goalkeeper was hesitating to her left, so I kicked it to her right. It was calming to know that I could handle it."
Cassalia, earning the starting nod in her first collegiate game, rejected a pair of shots by Stag Nikki Stanton late in the match. Her first stop was a spectacular one when she leaped high in the air to knock the ball away in the 88th minute, and the second came just 1:50 later as she made all three of her saves in the second half.
"Jordan managed the game well and had some very big moments, which gives the team confidence," explained McDermott. "When you are playing well as a team generally and have a goalkeeper who is behind who can make a big save, it gives you confidence that you can go ahead and play with a little more freedom and more energy and excitement knowing that someone is minding the goal for you."
Lail and Katie Holder led Army with four shots each as the Black Knights recorded 20 with Fairfield goalkeeper Kathleen Early finishing with six saves, three in each half. The Stags (0-1-0) outshot Army 12-11 in the second half in finishing with 16 shots and held a 6-4 corner kick advantage. Reserve Ashley Small recorded a game-high five shots to include a shot on goal early in the second half.
Army returns to action on Sunday hosting NCAA participant Rutgers in the first-ever meeting at 1 p.m.
ON THE PITCH: Army pulled ahead 5-2-0 in the all-time series with Fairfield following its third straight win and second consecutive blanking ... Jordan Cassalia was the lone Army freshman in the starting lineup, drawing the nod as goalkeeper ... freshman Pam Wishart was among five reserves to see action ... Army's seven seniors will receive their rings Saturday morning in a special ceremony.