With a season-high three first half goals scored within seven minutes of each other, William and Mary completed its home slate of midweek matches with a 4-2 win over North Carolina — Asheville at Martin Family Stadium to break its four-game losing streak Tuesday night.
“Great start, obviously getting goals early changes the dynamic of the game and eases our anxiety a little bit,” head coach Chris Norris said. “We’ve been on a tough stretch and to get some goals early and feel like we had a good chance of winning was very important for us for sure.”
Entering into its first-ever match with the Bulldogs (4-8-1, 1-4 Big South), the College (5-7-2, 1-5 CAA) took advantage of the non-conference game to claim a win with a combination of speed and control of possession. Norris commented on how the team prepares for the game against a team it’s never faced.
“You concentrate on your own team, what you think you’re good and will be important,” Norris said. “We didn’t focus very much on Asheville to be honest, we didn’t have a lot of information on them…It’s a similar scenario to early in the season when opponents haven’t played a lot of matches so there isn’t a lot of information…so it’s something we’re not totally unaccustomed to.”
Starting with freshman forward Ryder Bell’s header being saved by UNC — Asheville keeper Tyler Moore three minutes and 18 seconds into the match, the Tribe fired six shots in the first 15 minutes. The last of those six went into the net at 13:02 courtesy of sophomore forward William Eskay after receiving his own rebound off the hands of Moore and shooting on the open net.
The score didn’t stay 1-0 for long as senior forward Jackson Eskay scored on the College’s next shot, firing unassisted from 25 yards out, the ball just inching beyond the Moore’s reach and slamming into the left side of the net. The score now sat at 2-0 in the 17th minute. Four minutes later, Bell scored his sixth tally of the season, the eventual game-winner, after gaining possession from Jackson Eskay and redshirt sophomore back Alfonso Speed, Jr., with a shot that hit the left post and shifted its trajectory right into the goal. The three-goal run within seven minutes is the fastest the squad has scored three goals in the 2015 season.
“We started the game well and aggressively, we had a lot of willing runners and did a good job of pressing them defensively, causing turnovers in areas where we could get at them quickly,” Norris said. “We had two very good goals and then one that was fortunate with the deflection…we were very happy to be in that position and have that kind of start.”
Defensively, the Tribe kept heavy pressure on the Bulldogs, not allowing a shot until the 33rd minute. When the shot came, redshirt freshman keeper Logan Jones — appearing in his first collegiate start — was ready and made the save. UNC — Asheville’s next shot three minutes later found the back of the net to prevent a shutout by the College. At the break, the Tribe retained a 3-1 lead and held a 12-2 advantage on shots. Jones’ lone save would end up as his only save of the night. Norris commented on the decision to have Jones — the third Tribe starting keeper this season — get the starting nod.
“I don’t think our goalkeeping performances overall this year have been as good as we expect,” Norris said. “We felt like we needed to give all three guys an opportunity to show what they can do in a meaningful game.”
Most of the second half ticked down without any more goals, the majority of the action coming in the final five minutes. The College maintained possession for most of the half and fired several shots to keep pressure on the Asheville back line. Moore kept his head up against a barrage of three quick shots between 61:02 and 62:04 as he made two saves from shots by Jackson Eskay and Bell and faced a shot that hit the post made by freshman midfielder Marcel Berry.
Berry would take another shot in the 85th minute, this time scoring his second goal of his rookie season. Bell and Jackson Eskay were credited for the assist as the College held a 4-1 lead, only the third time this fall that the team has scored four times—the others were 4-2 over Liberty Sept. 1 and 4-1 over Elon Sept. 30. Jackson Eskay commented on how the goal was scored.
“We had the ball pinned over on our right side and we broke pressure and a ball came into my feet and I was able to turn,” he said. “There was a big space in front of their back line… I carried it for 20 yards or so and saw Ryder making a run from the left…played him a ball and played a great ball across to Marcel who finished in a run we were looking for the whole game.”
As the game wound down to its final minute, it looked like the game would end 4-1. The Bulldogs refused to give up as they fired in one last shot at 89:05 after Jones was knocked down and the game finished 4-2, the College picking up the victory.
William and Mary outshot UNC — Asheville 24-5 with a 10-3 advantage of on-target attempts. Moore made six saves while Jones made one. The game marks a much-needed break from Colonial Athletic Association as the Tribe hadn’t gotten a win in the conference since October began. Jackson Eskay commented on the impact of the late non-CAA matchup.
“I think we felt that the pressure was relieved so to speak a little bit,” Jackson Eskay said. “That helped keep our heads right with that nice little break in the season where you’re still getting a 90-minute match in but know that the stakes aren’t quite as high and you can work on some things that you need to that a practice environment couldn’t mimic perfectly.”
The Tribe returns home for its season finale next Saturday, Oct. 31, to face Delaware, but first it travels for its final road trip of the regular season with a Saturday match at Drexel scheduled for 4 p.m. and a Wednesday match scheduled for 7 p.m. at VCU.