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WSOC: Flyers Blank the Bonnies 2-0
WSOC: Flyers Blank the Bonnies 2-0
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
Smile WSOC: Flyers Blank the Bonnies 2-0

A goal just before halftime gave the Flyers a 1-0 advantage, and an insurance goal in the second half propelled the Dayton Flyers women's soccer team to a 2-0 shutout over visiting St. Bonaventure on a beautiful, warm, and sunny afternoon at Baujan Field. The victory keeps the Flyers unblemished in the A10 as they improve their overall record to 8-1-1 (2-0-0). The Bonnies drop to 2-2-5 (0-2-0).

The last remnants of summer drenched the UD campus with warm temps and mostly sunny skies as the Flyers entertained the Bonnies -- a pair of teams headed in opposite directions. While SBU has struggled to secure victories, the Flyers have found ways to keep the losses away and grind out results both at home and on the road. As Sunday's match got underway, fans witnessed these storylines more or less play out as expected.

The Flyers controlled tempo in the early moments and eventually commandeered a sizeable chunk of ball possession up and down the field. Two things were evident in the first 10 minutes: Dayton had a talent advantage while SBU attempted to narrow that gap with a faster work rate. It was a clash of skills vs elbow grease and for a while it was a relative stalemate as the ball meandered back and forth between both sides of the field. UD developed more scoring chances as the match continued, but the final passes and execution around the Bonnie goal box often broke down and resulted in either weak shots on goal or shots off target entirely.

The Bonnies did relatively well to counter UD's tactical supremacy however, mainly with a high-level work ethic to fight for loose balls and provide second and third efforts to knock possession away or keep the Flyers a half-step off their stride. It worked. Dayton's buildup and overall offensive pace was overtly slow in large stretches of the first half. Service often took longer than necessary or touches on the ball were far too many when 1- and 2-touch soccer could have exploited the gaps St. Bonaventure was leaving open.

The Flyers pushed the ball downfield enough to generate additional shots and also earn a few corner kicks, but once again the service from the flags yielded no dangerous scoring opportunities. In some cases, UD played short out of the corner but nothing worked just as nothing has worked for the better part of two and a half seasons. Nevertheless, the Flyers had their opportunities to stick one in the net and Itala Gemelli was close to doing just that on a pair of occasions inside the Bonnie goal box.

Despite dominating the stat sheet, UD and SBU were destined for a scoreless halftime until utility player Alicia Donley launched a cross in the box from 25yds out that found the back corner of the net for the 1-0 Dayton lead with just 22 seconds before intermission. Whether it was a cross or a shot -- and judging by Donley's reaction to the goal even she couldn't hide the answer to that question -- it gave the Flyers a huge lift heading into the locker room -- if nothing else enjoying a lead they earned through the run of play over the first 45 minutes.

Halftime stats were 16-1 in shots and 7-0 in corner kicks. The number of dangerous scoring chances were far less however.

Second half restarts have been somewhat problematic for UD with motors often stuck in neutral as opposing teams grab another gear and swing the momentum away. The Bonnies stuck with what worked in the first half but added some additional sweat equity to grind out loose balls, disrupt Dayton's attack, and more or less make a large chunk of the second half an ugly slugfest of half-chances and missed opportunities.

Dayton always maintained a larger presence with the ball, but the pace of play continued to sidetrack the attacking mindset in the offensive half of the field. The Bonnies often sprinted to chase down marks or pursue the ball and shorten the windows of time for Flyer players to make a smart decision. As the second half soldiered on, UD lost some shape and scrambled around the field just trying to maintain possession and focused less on doing productive things with the ball at their feet. Decision-making, ball movement, and weak-side service to swing the run of play never materialized fast enough to take advantage of those individual talent gaps in 1v1 situations. The lone exception was Jess Sheldon working the touch lines with booming runs and subsequent service into the box -- but she's the only player capable of receiving tardy service and tapping into her quicks to overcome it.

Dayton finally tacked on an insurance goal in the 61st minute when Mairin Wessner redirected a ball inside the goal box that initially bounced off the left post after a shot by Noel Blain. Now up 2-0, the victory was essentially in the bag and the focus was on preserving the clean sheet. UD had several more quality chances to extend the lead however. Gemelli missed a great chance from 10yds out that she normally finishes, while Noel Blain and Diana Benigno registered five shots a piece -- some on dribble-drives and others from long-range.

Goalkeeper Batoul Reda once again got the start and did well in the moments she was needed. Whether it was high-ball service in the box, loose ball challenges, or clearances out of danger, she was sharp and sure-handed all match and made good decisions time and again. With her back line helping out, the Flyers earned the 2-0 shutout -- their seventh bagel of the season. Some of those clean sheets have been white-knucklers with poor giveaways and defensive sharpness in the final third; even Sunday's match was not without a number of inexplicable unforced turnovers that made everyone's job more challenging than it needed to be. Once again, UD avoided being burned by the big mistake that could have altered the tenor of the match.

Dayton outshot SBU 34-6, but just 10 Flyer shots were on frame. Corner kicks were 10-0. UD could have easily scored four or more goals were the pace of play faster and finishing more clinical around the net. Credit to the Bonnies however overcoming obvious gaps in technical ability with a high motor that got the Flyers out of their rhythm for large stretches of the game. The immediate challenge for UD is stringing together back-to-back halves of quality soccer where an early lead turns into a two or three-goal cushion -- crushing the hopes and dreams of the opposition and making the final 15 minutes of the game largely academic.

UD hits the road next week for matches at George Mason and UMass. Any team with plans to give Saint Louis a run for their money in the A10 race has little to no margin for error. That means Coach Eric Golz needs two wins by hook or by crook.

Hot shooting hides a multitude of sins.
Make everyone else's "one day" your "day one".
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