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Robert Morris women come up inches short of dramatic win

Sophomore defender Courtney Hurey steps to a ball. (Jason Cohn/RMU)

Robert Morris women come up inches short of dramatic win

FINAL: Robert Morris 0, Fairleigh Dickinson 0 

From Robert Morris University athletic department report

In need of three points to aid in their quest to climb the Northeast Conference table, the Robert Morris University women’s soccer team came within inches of getting just that on Sunday evening at the North Athletic Complex.

Instead, Brittany O’Connell’s last-minute free kick hit the crossbar, forcing RMU to settle for a 0-0 draw against first-place Fairleigh Dickinson. The single point gained in the standings lifted the Colonials into a momentary tie for sixth, three points below the playoff zone with four matches to play.

BOX SCORE 

It’s still attainable to qualify for the NEC tournament, but after a difficult 1-0 loss to Sacred Heart on Friday, tying a team that entered unbeaten in conference play didn’t quite have the luster it might otherwise.

“I think we did play up to the challenge,” head coach John Kowalski said. “We had a very organized game defensively and we tried to score on the counterattacks. … We are playing decent; however, one loss and one tie isn’t what we wanted to get out of the weekend. But against FDU on the back end (of the weekend), I’ll take the tie.”

Impressively, the Colonials (4-8-2, 2-3-1 NEC) didn’t allow any of the Knights’ 15 shots to be placed on goal. It made for a routine shutout for junior keeper Sydney Bruckner, the eighth of her RMU career and third of this season.

Kowalski gave full marks to his two sophomore central defenders — Allie Ball and Courtney Hurey — and holding midfielders Chelsea Kingston and O’Connell for their solid work in cutting off FDU’s dribbles and dishes. The Knights (6-5-4, 5-0-1 NEC) had averaged two goals per game in their first five league contests.

“I think all season we’ve been able to play up to the teams we’re playing against,” said Ball, a Bridgeville native and Chartiers Valley grad. “They’re a big team, so we were a little nervous coming into this one, but I think we played strong. We’re able to communicate well. The confidence that we got each other’s backs makes us good back there.”

After the teams barrelled through 90 minutes with a few missed chances for either side, overtime was rather uneventful. That is, it was uneventful until RMU freshman attacker Sheridan Reid broke loose in the midfield in the final minute. A Knights defender grabbed her shirt to slow her down, leading to a free kick just outside the penalty area.

The chance went to the junior Norwin alum O’Connell, who drilled her shot over the FDU wall and keeper Amanda Fitzgerald, but flush off the bar. An ensuing O’Connell corner kick fell to Reid with five seconds to go, but she couldn’t direct her desperation try on frame.

“We played with heart,” Ball said with dusk settling in at the NAC. “Our spirits have been pretty good. Trying to lift each other’s spirits and not put them down.”

The sun might have gone down on the game, but the Colonials’ season still has life. They created 24 combined shots in the two home matches this weekend, but couldn’t put the ball in the net.

As they prepare for three consecutive road matches, starting next Friday at Saint Francis, they’ll have to find a way to take some pressure off their stout defense.

“It can’t just be on the (attackers),” Ball insisted. “It has to be on everyone, making accurate passes and good runs. Working together in that sense, having good communication and being on the same page.” 

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