After tying for the team lead in goals scored last season, sophomore midfielder/forward Ashley Mutkus picked up right where she left off in the Fighting Scots’ 2015 women’s soccer home opener on Saturday afternoon. Mutkus, who scored the opening goal of the match, picked up the deciding goal in the 75th minute to propel Edinboro (2-0) to an eventual 3-1 victory over visiting Notre Dame College (Ohio) at Sox Harrison Stadium.
“Ashley is a stud,” head coach Gary Kagiavas said with a grin after the match. “We brought her in last year to be a stud and she’s going to [be one] hopefully this year. She’ll feel more confident and the patterns of play are a little bit better and clearer for her. Ashley truly is a cross-forward.”
Mutkus, a Monaca, Pennsylvania native, buried the winning goal on a shot from the far right wing into the upper left corner as she was assisted by senior midfielder and forward Jansen Hartmann, who scored the lone goal in Edinboro’s PSAC and season opening 1-0 win on Thursday night against Clarion, on the play.
On an afternoon where both sides were battling not only the opposition, but also the 82 degree heat, Mutkus felt a sense of relief to find the back of the net on her second goal. “It felt good to get us off the tie and so we could sit back and kind of relax, especially in that heat,” Mutkus admitted. “You don’t want to be battling that much, for that long.”
Despite defeating the Falcons 1-0 last year, the Mountain East Conference foe was among a group of teams in the Atlantic Region that kept Edinboro out of the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years. “The fact that last year we got bumped because of these guys, it’s a real nice revenge win for us,” Kagiavas said. “In the region, it’s always important when you’ve got a leg up on somebody that you know at the end will be there. Notre Dame (Ohio) will definitely be there running at the end, so if we have this win over them, it will really help us when it comes down to final selections for the NCAA tournament.”
Edinboro began the match with an unassisted Mutkus goal from the top of the box exactly eight minutes into the action. From that point forward, Kagiavas felt it was the Fighting Scots who controlled game play, due in large part to the way his team managed the heat. “In the first half, by the time there were 15 minutes left, I subbed 10 out of 11 of my starters,” Kagiavas explained. “It showed in the second half that they were tired. I think the substitution really worked for us in the first half.”
In the 68th minute, the Falcons found the back of the net as sophomore midfielder Jillian Doss nailed a shot from 25 yards out on an assist from junior forward Natalie Ockunzzi to even the score at one apiece. Despite the late game equalizer, the Scots were unfazed, according to their head coach. “That was the first shot in the second half,” Kagiavas said frankly. “It was a fluky shot; it was a good shot, but it was their first shot. I didn’t really worry much about that fact that it was 1-1, because I knew that we were just physically dominating and we were mentally stronger.”
After recapturing the lead in the 75th minute, a rejuvenated Scots squad sprinkled on a third score as freshman midfielder Halle Hammer scored her first career goal on a shot from the top of the box to the middle of the goal. Junior midfielder Grace Kereky was credited with the assist.
Edinboro outshot the Falcons 17-5 in the contest, including a 12-3 advantage in the first half. Notre Dame College sophomore goalkeeper Louisa Rygh finished with three goals allowed and six saves, while Edinboro sophomore Sarah Baskey gave up just one score in net with a pair of saves for the Scots. “I can’t tell you enough how strong our defense is,” Kagiavas said. “We’re not going to give up too many goals this year. Our keepers are brilliant and our back line is strong. My defensive mids are really, really good.”
Edinboro next hosts PSAC East foes Shippensburg and Millersville on Friday at 1 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m., respectively, at Sox Harrison Stadium.
Mike Fenner is a staff writer for The Spectator. He can be reached at email@example.com.