A young and promising Brewer women’s soccer team found its stride and rewrote the record books this past weekend, as they picked up two impressive home wins in the Vassar Invitational.
After suffering two early season losses to NYU and Western Connecticut State and a tie against Montclair State, the Brewers rebounded with a 3-0 shutout of Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC) in the opening match of the Invitational on Saturday.
Early in the game, the Brewers proved that they had overcome their previous struggles with finishing plays. Vassar was aggressive right out of the gate, stringing together ambitious lead passes to their forwards and getting many great looks on goal in the first 10 minutes.
The scoring opened in just the ninth minute, when junior midfielder Sara Seper took a very deceiving lead pass that snuck through several MSMC Knight defenders and found fellow junior Audrey Pillsbury near the box.
Pillsbury, noticing the MSMC goalkeeper Mary Riley was out of position, raced to the ball for a slide kick. Pillsbury’s shot just barely poked past the goalkeeper and slowly rolled into the left corner of the open net for her first goal of the season.
Pillsbury said: “We had been working a lot in practice on taking the shot when we have a window of opportunity. I was really proud of everyone for taking what we practiced into the game and having the confidence to fire off shots from all sorts of angles and spots on the field.”
The Brewers would continue to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the first period. Just 12 minutes after Pillsbury’s goal, Seper earned her second assist of the game on a brilliant crossfield through pass to first-year forward Ashley Ferry in the box. Ferry, taking her time, hit the ball strong and low, beautifully placing it in the left corner of the net.
Early in the season and with her two assists on Saturday, Seper has established herself as a leader on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Now with two full years of college soccer under her belt, Seper is an experienced and poised player who knows how to read the field and control the pace of the game.
“As someone who plays center mid, you are basically the first line of both the defense and offense, and you need to be able to do both really effectively,” Seper said. “I am someone who talks a lot on the field, and I think this communication is what has helped me be an effective player in the midfield, because it allows for the team to work as a singular unit.”
After Seper’s two assists, the Brewers tacked on their third and final goal of the game at the 27:17 mark in the first period. A perfectly aimed lead pass from midfield found a running forward, junior Arianna Cascone, inside the box. Cascone, electing to take her time as opposed to shooting a rushed straight shot, was fouled by the goalkeeper Riley in an attempt to stop the play. Riley was given a yellow card, resulting in a penalty shot for the Brewers. Junior defender Emma Lavelle took the penalty shot and connected with the back net to score the goal, all set up by the great initial pass to Cascone.
“We have been working this season on finding the second-man runner,” Seper said. “Meaning, rather than passing the ball to the obvious choice, it is crucial to find the person who is running in behind them, someone who won’t be marked as closely and someone who is generally coming from the other side of the field towards the goal.”
Seper added that she is happy the way the team has been working together to play unselfishly and find the open man.
“We are an extremely close team and are all really great friends on and off the field,” Seper said. “It inspires everyone to play their hardest, because you want to win and do well for your teammates. It is definitely one of the biggest strengths that our team has, especially when playing difficult competition, we are still encouraging and in support of each other at all times.”
The Brewers finished out the Mount Saint Mary game by playing the Knights even throughout the second period. First-year goalkeeper Fiona Walsh, who is currently the only available keeper on the team, was strong throughout the weekend and was awarded the shutout.
Moving into a quick turnaround game on Sunday, Vassar dismantled a developing program in Elmira College, 8-0. The game marks the most goals scored in one match since 2009. First-year Ashley Ferry racked up a school record four assists in the contest. For her efforts throughout the weekend, Ferry was named both Liberty League Performer of the Week and Rookie of the Week.
“The adjustment to the college game has definitely been a great experience so far,” Ferry said. “I could not imagine a better and more welcoming team to join, and it already feels like we have been playing together for awhile. It’s amazing to be surrounded by a bunch of people who have so much dedication and passion for the game and each other.”
The forward tandem of Pillsbury and Ferry will prove to be a dangerous combination for the Brewers as their season continues to develop. Pillsbury is a junior who has a great presence on the pitch and is the team’s most consistent offensive performer, while Ferry is a lightning-quick forward who is unafraid to take a big shot.
“Playing up top with Ashley has been really fun, she has great vision and we read each other’s runs nicely,” Pillsbury said. “She’s a stud.”
The first-year Ferry has been complemented by a strong Class of 2021. First-year midfielder Hannah Daley had two goals and an assist in the match against Elmira, while fellow first-year Brenna McMannon scored a goal and first-years Skylar Herrera-Ross and Ally Thayer both added assists.
Daley and Walsh were both named to the Liberty League Honor Roll for their play in the Invitational.
“The [first-years] killed it this weekend,” Pillsbury said. “Every single one of them has a great attitude, a great work rate and contributed immensely to our success this weekend.”
The Brewers will continue to rely on their first-years, along with their core group of experienced returners, as they continue their season this Saturday on the road against Oneonta.