Nervous, jittery, timid and flat describe how the Webster University women’s soccer team came out against their bitter rival Principia College in a gut-wrenching 2-1 loss on Oct. 22 at the Soccer Park. It was the Gorloks’ third straight loss to Principia dating back to last season.
“We didn’t play the first half as we intended,” senior defender Izzy Sherfy said. “We were not all-in. In a big game like this, we came out a little timid and laid back. They are our biggest rivals. We should have come out better.”
Video by Sam Masterson
Sophomore midfielder Katie Aubuchon said the Gorloks thought too highly of their opponent.
“The way (coach) Luigi (Scire) talks about how special they are, it makes everyone nervous — I know it does me,” Aubuchon said. “The first half wasn’t exactly what we had hoped for. We were nervous and scared.”
In the battle of first-place teams in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Principia controlled the ball and pace of the game with a staunch, aggressive defensive approach. The Gorloks had minimal scoring opportunities.
“We saw that defensive style they used at the beginning of the season, where a team will bring their defenders all the way up and make runs,” senior midfielder Ally Nikolaus said. “It caught us off guard.”
The Gorloks held off constant pressure from the Panthers in the first half, but Webster’s defense finally gave way. A beautiful shot by sophomore Hayley MacWilliams gave Principia a 1-0 lead with 11 minutes left in the half.
Less than two minutes later, Principia senior Alicia Girbes-Pierce weaved in and out of several Webster defenders and drilled a short, uncontested shot to give the Panthers a 2-0 halftime lead.
“No. 13 (Girbes-Pierce) has good foot skills,” Aubuchon said. “She dribbled through us like we were cones on that goal.”
Later in the half, Aubuchon received a yellow card trying to fire up for her team. She was constantly in a battle of words with the referee.
“I’m emotional, and the ref was getting an attitude on our team,” Aubuchon said. “I had to stand up for my players.”
Principia, which outshot the Gorloks 25-6, continued to control play throughout the second half, until senior midfielder Morgan Milfeld was taken down on a hard foul by a Principia defender. Nikolaus drilled in her sixth goal of the year on a penalty shot with 10:58 left in the game. Suddenly, the Gorloks were within striking distance, trailing 2-1.
The goal gave Webster a spark, as the Gorloks controlled the ball and put pressure on the Principia defense the final 10 minutes. But it was too little too late, as the Gorloks could not put anything in the net.
“We needed to be more aggressive on defense and have the drive and passion the entire game,” Nikolaus said. “Next time, we will be ready.”
The Gorloks rebounded from the loss to Principia by beating 2-15 Westminster College 5-0 on senior night on Oct. 25 at the Soccer Park.
Webster completely dominated the Blue Jays from start to finish in a game where they needed to step up and play well after the tough loss to Principia earlier in the week. The win secured Webster a spot in the SLIAC tournament, which starts Nov. 3.
The win over Westminster improved Webster’s overall record to 11-5-1 and SLIAC record to 6-1. The Gorloks have their regular-season finale at Blackburn College on Oct. 29.
The two conference powers Webster and Principia could meet again before the season is over in the conference tournament championship. Playing the Panthers again would add incentive for Sherfy, who has been a four-year starter for Webster. During her sophomore season she tore her ACL during a game against Principia, which knocked her out for the rest of the season.
“No. 13 (Girbes-Pierce) gave me a hard tackle in that game, my knee gave out and I was lost for the season,” Sherfy said. “Nothing would be better than to take Principia and No. 13 out in the conference tournament and go on to the NCAA championships.”