By David Rogers. August 19, 2018. BOONE, NC — After two unsteady exhibition performances against East Tennessee State and Western Carolina and a collapse in the season opener on Friday at High Point, Appalachian State women’s soccer went back to the future in carving out a convincing, 3-0 win on Sunday afternoon against Campbell at Ted Mackeroll Soccer Stadium.
COVER IMAGE: Maggie Hanusek’s goal slips by Campbell goalkeeper Erin Scott midway through the first half. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Overcast skies periodically gave way to steamy, almost oppressive sunlight throughout the match, but that didn’t slow down the Mountaineers. The High Country’s favorite daughters were near midseason form with punishing defensive pressure and often artful offense.
We played a lot of people today.
One of head coach Sarah Strickland’s priorities in recent years has been for her charges to get the ball — and people — into the box, in front of an opponent’s goal. Just over three and half minutes into the match, junior midfielder Ava Dawson alertly crossed the ball into the middle where redshirt junior Jamie Palermo emerged from what by all appearances was a rugby scrum to punch the ball past the Campbell goalkeeper for the Mountaineers’ first goal.
Redshirt freshman forward Kait Seitter and junior midfielder Maggie Hanusek combined to craft the final two Mountaineer scores.
At the 17:40 mark of the first half, Seitter beat a Campbell defender down the right sideline before finding Hanusek in front of the goal. With a quick step to the left, Hanusek maneuvered the ball around Camel goalkeeper Erin Scott and pummelled the orb along the ground and into the back of the net. Scott dove to her right for the wannabe save, but her effort proved futile as she turned her head to follow the ball scooting past her and into the goal.
The Mountaineers’ final tally, at the 79:05 mark in the second half, was almost an inverse of the team’s second goal. This time it was Hanusek who sprinted with the ball down the right sideline before crossing it across and back to Seitter. Hanusek’s pass had drawn the Camel’s Scott out of goal and Seitter was quick to sense the opportunity. From deep in the right side of the box, the 5’3″ midfielder from Point Pleasant, NJ quickly lofted the ball over the outstretched hands of the jumping Scott, a looping ball with just the right amount of arc to duck below the horizontal bar and into the net.
Our objective was to turn the ship around and get points at home.
Strickland explained to Blowing Rock News afterward that her priority in preseason exhibitions and early non-conference matches is to see a lot of players and in different combinations.
“You have to remember that our game against Western Carolina was an exhibition match,” Strickland reminded reporters. “On that day we played 29 athletes. We mixed up the lineup into different combinations in every third (the teams played three, 30-minute halves). Western had a different approach, playing mostly their starters and lot fewer players for all three periods. For us to have this large of a roster and to get all of the players to buy into what we are doing, we have to give each one a shot…We are investing in all of these kids for the long term, not just some of them.”
While four of App State’s starters (Emily Cowie, Alexa Asher, Jessica Easley, and Kristin Brown) played the full 90 minutes on Sunday against Campbell and a fifth (Dawson) was on the field for 88 minutes, Strickland was able to give minutes when it mattered to 28 of her Mountaineers. With six true freshmen and seven redshirt freshmen on the 2018 roster, getting the younger player that game experience is as important to Strickland as it is to the players competing for positions.
She has grit. She has determination. And she has heart.
“We played a lot of people today,” said Strickland, who enters her ninth season at the helm of the Mountaineers’ women’s soccer program. “Several of these girls played their first career minutes in college, whether a true freshman or redshirt freshman. They got to get in there and made an impact for Mountaineer soccer.
“On Friday (at High Point),” Strickland admitted, “a lot of things went wrong. We spent a lot of time yesterday correcting those and cleaning things up. Friday was not the type of play that we as a team can be proud of. So our objective was to turn the ship around, so to speak, and get points at home.”
Strickland had high praise for the play of Hanusek, who she noted “just keeps getting better and better.”
“She has grit. She has determination and she has heart,” said the coach of her versatile junior midfielder, who is often found in an offensive attack. While not the most athletic player on the roster, Strickland promised, “She will absolutely make an impact in every game she plays. She makes plays and gets to balls she actually has no business even getting to. She always gives everything she has and leaves it on the field.”
High Country soccer enthusiasts will get a chance to see Hanusek and her teammates again on Friday, August 24th, when the Mountaineers host South Carolina State at Ted Mackorell Soccer Stadium, 7:00 pm. In the interim, they travel north for an August 24th encounter in College Park, MD against the University of Maryland, and a swing down the Atlantic coast to Norfolk where they take on Old Dominion on Aug. 26th.