Freshman Elizabeth Woerner struck in the 22nd minute, and the lone goal was all it took for the Tigers to kick off the women’s soccer season with a victory as Memphis took down Alabama 1-0 Friday night at Mike Rose Soccer Complex.
Woerner scored the goal to put The University of Memphis on top, but it was the team’s defense that secured the victory with its dominant play on the defensive end.
“That’s where our veterans are in the back, and they’re good — They’re really good,” head coach Brooks Monaghan said. “We’ll win more games 1-0, but hopefully we can score more goals.”
While the Tigers are a young team overall, three freshmen started the game against Alabama and another played more than 60 minutes off the bench, the team’s defense is anchored by seniors Elysia Masters, Marissa Duguay and Diamond Simpson on the back line and junior goalkeeper Maryse Bard-Martel.
Opening the season with a 1-0 victory is a positive sign for a team that relied heavily on its goal-scoring a season ago. In 2014 Memphis held only a 2-6-3 record when scoring less than two goals, and was unbeaten at 7-0-1 when eclipsing the two-goal mark. With so much of the team’s experience and leadership on the defensive side of the field the Tigers may have better luck in low-scoring contests this season.
“It’s always beautiful to have a shutout,” Masters said. “This year three of us in the back are seniors, and we’ve been working together for four years and we should read each other’s minds at this point. We have that responsibility to have a shutout every game, so to be honest it’s what’s expected.”
The Crimson Tide appeared threatening in the opening minutes of the game, getting off three shots in the early going. However, it was the Tigers that were first on the scoreboard after junior Necee Jennings fired a cross from the left side of the field which found Woerner at the far post, who headed the ball past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
From that point it was all Memphis, with the Tigers controlling the majority of the possession and the defense sniffing out and putting a stop to any Alabama opportunities. The Crimson Tide regained control of the game in the final 10 minutes as they desperately pushed for an equalizer, but the Memphis back line was up to the task to preserve the clean sheet.
The game marked the regular season debut for five Tiger freshmen, and several put forth solid performances in their opening games for the Blue and Gray. Marie Levasseur played 61 minutes off the bench, putting a shot on goal and setting up junior Valerie Sanderson for an open shot inside the box in the second half.
Catherine Levasseur and Olivia Gauthier each started and played all 90 minutes, and Woerner scored the game’s only goal and put another shot on target in her 41 minutes on the pitch.
With the first victory of the season under their belt, the Tigers will head off on a three-game road trip that will see the team take on Samford, UAB and Dartmouth.
Memphis will square off against Samford Friday night in Birmingham, Alabama. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Valerie Sanderson recorded two shots, one on target in the 1-0 victory against Alabama Friday night.