A hot and humid Fall day on the turf at Spartan Stadium saw a tough match up against the St. Ursula Bulldogs Saturday morning.
The Bulldogs have a well-earned reputation throughout the city as a skilled, tactically accomplished team. Short three starters due to injury, this game might have ended differently if not for the determined Spartans who came ready to play, including the eight players from the Maroon squad who lent their talent to Gold for the game.
Lining up in a midfield-heavy formation at kickoff, the Spartans traded possession with the Bulldogs in the opening minutes of the first half. St. Ursula's forwards proved fast and skilled, but Turpin's defenders played smart and were able to minimize crosses and shots by forcing the Bulldogs outside and over the end line.
While the Spartans completed spurts of good one touch passing - a must against a quality side like St. Ursula - Turpin's offense made its presence known by driving down the flanks. Ella Tierney and GiGi Bush combined well and often, but the Bulldogs' defense, like Turpin's, stood strong.
St. Ursula scored with 15 minutes left in the first period, when keeper Emme Ritzenthaler made a dive to corral a low, driven shot. Though she made the initial save, a second-effort chance from a lurking striker hit the back of the net.
The Spartans fought hard to stay in the game both mentally and physically, and successfully avoided any letdown. They remained resilient and closed out the half with the score at 1-0.
At the beginning of the second half, Coach Jim Abend sent the Spartans out with an additional forward to further spark the offense. The loss of a fifth midfielder was an adjustment against St Ursula's attack, and the Spartans were pinned in their defensive third for the first part of the half. Turpin's backline rebuffed shot after shot, and wisely cleared the ball long when they could in order to release the constant pressure.
By the tenth minute the Spartans were turning momentum their way with the help of a brief rest and more physical commitment from Turpin's central midfielders.
Turpin stepped up its play all around, digging deep in the oppressive heat. The Spartans kept the ball in the Bulldogs' half more consistently and moved the ball more quickly to their teammates. They didn't back down from the Bulldogs' increasingly physical defense.
The Spartans' persistence clearly frustrated St Ursula, and eventually the Bulldogs made a costly mistake on the defensive line. With ten left in the game, the Bulldogs keeper, fielding a back pass, put the ball right to the feet of forward Rachel Goldsmith not ten yards away in front of an empty net. Goldsmith neatly cut around a charging defender, spotted the recovered goalie, and chipped the ball over the keeper’s back shoulder for the score.
With the game now even, Turpin redoubled its efforts to notch the game winner. Two free kicks in the last five minutes of the game were the Spartans' best chance to score. But CeCi Malagari and GiGi Bush just missed wide. The game ended 1-1.
Keeper Emme Ritzenthaler was steady throughout the game, and put in an excellent performance in support of her team.
With their record sitting at 5-5-2 on the season, JV Gold looks to take their fight to rival Anderson on Tuesday.