Freshman Emma Quirk scored early and senior Allie Segura broke a 1-1 tie with a penalty kick goal in the 73rd minute, sending the VMI Keydets past the Howard Lady Bison, 2-1, in women’s soccer action Friday at Patchin Field in Lexington, Va. The matchup was the season opener for both teams, and was VMI’s first women’s soccer match ever played as a member of the Southern Conference.
After Howard (0-1) had equaled Quirk’s 24th-minute goal with a 50th minute tally, the Keydets (1-0) mounted a counterattack in the 73rd minute. A VMI player was pulled down inside the box in a scrum, resulting in a yellow card to HU’s Treschelle Gibson-Serrette. Segura took the resulting penalty kick and easily drilled it into the upper right-hand portion of the goal for the eventual game-winner, and her first career goal.
The other key story was in net, where Sydnie Bligh moved from back line to goalkeeper and made six saves in her collegiate debut at the position. Her counterpart, Kyra Dickinson, was credited with one save.
With the victory, VMI grabbed its first season opening win since defeating these Lady Bison 4-3 in 2011 and it defeated Howard for the third time in four season openers between the clubs. The Keydets have now won back to back home openers for the first time since 2007-08.
The opening 10 minutes of the contest, played on a warm, exceptionally humid afternoon, were played at a slow pace. It was Howard who had the first quality chance. Rasheeda Ansari had an 11th-minute shot that was turned away with a Bligh dive, and Ansari also had a 12th-minute 1 vs. 1 opportunity go just wide of an open back post.
Bligh also made a save in the 22nd minute, and on the counterattack, Kristen Whitehurst sent a long cross to the far side of the box and the right of goalkeeper Dickinson. Quirk was on the other end and finished with her right foot, putting the Keydets up 1-0 with the goal in her collegiate debut.
That was the score at halftime, as Bligh’s four saves helped negate Howard’s 9-3 edge in shots. The visitors answered in the 50th minute, however, when Nikanya Clark found Nia Walcott in the middle of the field, near the top of the box. Walcott fired a low line drive that Bligh was able to tip, but the ball eluded the VMI keeper for a goal to tie the contest at 1.
From there, the contest settled down and the teams began to use their benches more frequently. There were 15 substitutions made over the next 20 minutes of game action, as each side looked to avoid issues from the potentially overwhelming humidity.
The Keydets finally got back on the board in the 73rd minute, when Segura notched the eventual game-winner off the penalty kick. Howard pushed forward immediately after the score, but shots at 74:22 and 75:56 were both off the mark. Bligh then turned aside an Ansari header in the 77th minute, and that would be the final Howard shot of the match as the Keydet defense preserved the 2-1 win.
VMI women’s soccer is back in action August 29, taking on the Youngstown State Penguins in Youngstown, Ohio. Game time is set for 7 p.m.