Lauren Wandzel scored her first career goal with just over seven minutes to go, breaking a 2-2 tie and sending the VMI Keydets over The Citadel Bulldogs, 3-2, in Southern Conference women’s soccer action Saturday in Charleston, S.C. The game was the first SoCon game in VMI women’s soccer history.
After the teams had battled to a 2-2 tie through the first 82-plus minutes, VMI (2-7, 1-0 SoCon) earned a throw-in in Citadel’s (4-7, 0-1) offensive zone. The toss went long and was tipped several times near the box. Wandzel then settled it and got off a shot that was blocked, but the rebound came right back to the freshman and she drilled it by Bulldog goalkeeper Naomi Carter for the eventual game-winner.
The Citadel held a 22-10 edge in shots and 10-4 edge in corner kicks, but Emily Marbury made seven saves to help preserve the Keydet margin of victory. The victory marked the first time since Oct. 2, 2009 that VMI had won its conference opener.
The homestanding Bulldogs started the game with an offensive push, forcing Marbury to make two saves in the first 5:22. They then struck in the 10th minute, when a high, arching shot by Mady Riegel from well outside the box found the top left corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead.
The Keydets responded less than five minutes later. Nicole Blixt found Emma Quirk just a handful of yards out, and Quirk put the ball past Carter for her second goal of the year and a 1-1 tie in the 14th minute.
The contest settled down a bit from there, with only one save being required by either club until the 34th minute, when Aaliyah Lyttle was turned aside by Carter. Marbury kept the score tied with a save of her own in the 38th minute and Carter responded with another stop at 40:49. That was the final shot on goal of the half, as the contest went to halftime deadlocked, 1-1.
VMI took the lead back less than two minutes into the second half. On a strange play that saw the ball go off multiple players and through the legs of several Keydets, Blixt kicked the loose ball by Carter for her second goal of the season and a 2-1 VMI lead at 46:45.
Marbury kept it that way at 49:45 and 52:45, but the Keydets committed a foul in the box in the 59th minute, giving Vanessa Aponte a penalty kick. The Citadel player pushed the try wide left, however, allowing the Keydets to maintain their one goal lead.
The Bulldogs knotted the score in the 75th minute, however. Lea Raedle evaded the VMI defense and was spotted by Ana Mesa, who found her with a pass 20 yards out. Raedle’s shot was good from distance into the far right side of the net for the goal, and a 2-2 tie.
It was Wandzel who had the next shot on goal, a header that Carter saved, but neither team could get off a try on goal after that until the freshman put back her own rebound at 82:59 for one of the biggest regular season goals in VMI women’s soccer history.
The Citadel had one more try on goal in the waning moments, but Marbury stopped Raedle in the 85th minute to preserve the thrilling win in the back and forth contest.
The Keydets played without three regular starters due to injuries.
“I’m so proud of these women tonight,” said VMI head coach Bryan Williams. “We’ve waited a long time for a breakthrough like this, and it came today. Lauren Wandzel did a great job on the game-winner, but many others had great games around her. Our whole back line was good, led by Sarah Putney. Nicole Blixt and Allie Segura had great games as well, with Nicole posting a career-best three points. This is a big win for our program, and I’m excited for our players and all of our supporters.”