Gardner-Webb takes down VMI women’s soccer, 3-1

vmi_logoA Nicole Blixt 53rd-minute goal pulled the VMI Keydets within one, but the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs added an insurance marker in the 71st minute and went on to a 3-1 victory in women’s soccer action Monday in Lexington, Va.

After Gardner-Webb (2-4) had taken a 2-0 lead to halftime, VMI (1-3) stepped up its offensive pressure early in the second half. Blixt took advantage, chipping in a shot from six yards out off a cross from Myranda Emery to notch her second career goal at 52:35. The score cut the lead to 2-1, but GWU’s Ashley Carmean found an insurance goal in the 71st minute to account for the final margin.

The visitors saw Shelby Hooe score twice to lead all players. Hooe, one of the top scorers in the region, notched her fifth and sixth goals of the year to lead a 20-shot Gardner-Webb effort. Keydet goalkeepers combined to make seven saves, with Kirsten Hancock making four in the first half in her first collegiate start. Emily Marbury stopped three shots in the second half in her season debut.

The game started relatively slowly, with Gardner-Webb controlling the pace. Hooe forced saves by Hancock at 3:02 and 9:23, before Hancock turned aside another GWU shot in the 17th minute. From there, the game settled into midfield play until the 31st minute. That was when Hooe took a pass near midfield, on the right sideline, and made a long run deep into the VMI zone. She then took a shot from the top of the box to Hancock’s right and beat the VMI keeper, putting the Runnin’ Bulldogs up, 1-0.

That margin doubled less than three minutes later, when Hooe scored off a double assist. Jessica Ferguson sent a ball into the middle that was tipped by Carmean. Hooe settled it 10 yards out and scored, making it 2-0, GWU. That would be the score at halftime.

The early portions of the second half told a different story. Kristen Whitehurst tested GWU keeper Amy Schmitt less than three minutes in, but Schmitt made the save to keep it 2-0. Whitehurst then saw a 50-50 ball kicked out by Schmitt moments later, as VMI’s offensive pressure began to build. Blixt then drilled a shot off the crossbar in the 51st minute, a play that would mark the final offensive maneuver before she scored to make it a 2-1 contest.

Hooe nearly grabbed a hat trick in the 63rd minute. She was able to get a shot off from the top of the box at a good angle, but could not get her full strength behind the attempt. The slow roller beat Marbury, but bounced off the post and the match stayed 2-1.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs added a score in the 71st minute. Off a scrum 15 yards out, the ball was sent high into the air near the top of the box. Carmean settled it and lofted a shot just over the hands of a retreating Marbury and into the back of the net, accounting for the final margin, 3-1.

Gardner-Webb finished the match with a 20-7 edge in shots and a 7-3 edge in corner kicks. Schmitt made three second-half saves for the visitors, while Krista Chavin played the first half and did not face a shot on goal.

“I’m very proud of the women,” said VMI head coach Bryan Williams. “They fought well to try to come back in today’s match. I thought Nicole Blixt, Lizzy Cotter and Myranda Emery in particular played well today, and we congratulate Gardner-Webb on a hard-fought victory. Shelby Hooe is a great player and today, she made the difference. We look forward to going to Cornell this coming weekend.”

VMI women’s soccer will return to action Friday, opening play at a four-team tournament hosted by Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y. The Keydets will take on the host school at 7 p.m. Friday before playing St. Bonaventure Sunday at 1 p.m.

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