Cougars Edge Women's Soccer in Opener

(c) David Morgan/Stylish Images
(c) David Morgan/Stylish Images

COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Ursinus College women's soccer team took a lead deep into the second half against a 2016 NCAA Tournament participant in its season opener Friday evening, but fell victim to a penalty kick strike with just over three minutes to play as visiting Misericordia eked out a 2-1 win in head coach Aileen Ascolese's debut.

Freshman Sabrina Doherty netted a highlight-reel strike late in the first half in her first collegiate match, staking Ursinus to a well-deserved advantage off an assist from junior Kasey Sheahan. It held up until the 20-minute mark of the second stanza, when Lauren Anderson matched Doherty's effort with a 30-yard blast of her own to tie it at 1-apiece. Misericordia snatched a victory when a ball into the box skidded off a Bear defender's hand, awarding the Cougars a penalty kick that Jeanna Orfanos buried with just 3:02 showing on the clock.

Freshman Caitlin O'Neill was active in the early going for Ursinus, taking a pair of corner kicks and forcing a save from Misericordia goalkeeper Alyssa Pojero within the first two minutes of action. Senior goalie Marisa Kalkstein made two saves of her own to keep the Cougars off the board before Doherty got the Bears on it with a dazzling shot to the upper left corner of the net from 30 yards out in the 39th minute.

Ursinus held on to its slim lead with some help from the woodwork, as Alex Gallagher's 54th-minute penalty kick grazed off the top of the crossbar and out for a goal kick, but the Bears were not so fortunate a second time.

Lauren Anderson equalized for the Cougars with just under 20 minutes remaining, stinging the top-right corner of the net on a free kick from 30 yards out. Misericordia, now on the attack, would have had another minutes later if not for a sensational defensive effort by freshman Rachel Coleman, who sprinted back to knock away a would-be breakaway goal with a sliding re-direction.

Kalkstein went down to make a strong save on Jackie Stevens, who had weaved her way through the Bears' defense and freed herself for a shot just inside the box in the 84th minute. The dam finally broke with just over three minutes to go, as a centering pass into the box skipped off the turf and caught a Bear in the hand, granting the Cougars a second penalty opportunity. This time Orfanos made no mistake, directing a hard shot to the right corner of the net. Ursinus was unable to muster a last-ditch effort as the clock ran out on its 2017 debut.

Stevens led all players with six shots for Misericordia, which outshot the Bears by an 18-3 margin. Kalkstein was solid between the pipes all night, collecting seven saves in her second career start. Doherty took two of Ursinus' three shots, with O'Neill accounting for the other.

Pojero finished with two saves for the Cougars.

In addition to O'Neill and Doherty, first-years Coleman and Angela Gervasi also earned starts in their first collegiate action, and sophomore Cailey Sanchez also made her first career start.

The Bears are right back in action on Sunday, when they head to Alvernia for a non-conference contest.