Emerson College left back Riana Odin was fouled 10 yards to the right of the 18-yard box early on in the Lions’ match against Mount Holyoke Saturday afternoon at Rotch Field, earning Emerson the best scoring chance the team would have the entire game.
As Odin lined up to deliver to serve the ball in, sophomore forward Alyssa Giannone turned to freshman midfielder Courtney Major and began to organize a play.
Odin’s set piece delivery curled into the box and Giannone connected on the other end, heading home a memorable 10th-minute goal into the upper left corner to secure a 1-0 victory for the Lions.
Women’s soccer head coach David Suvak said Giannone’s goal was the best he’s seen at Emerson since he began coaching the team in 2010 — not least because it gave Emerson its first New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference win in program history.
“She is a very dangerous player. She’s super athletic and a huge threat to other teams because of her technical ability,” said Suvak, calling Giannone’s winner “the best Emerson girls’ goal that I’ve seen in my history here.”
Giannone said Suvak has made set pieces an emphasis during practice recently.
“I told [Major] to do the play where she stands offsides and it confuses the defense,” Giannone said. “She ran up as the ball was kicked and I ran in and there it was.”
In the NEWMAC preseason coaches’ poll, Emerson (6-5, 1-1) and Mount Holyoke (4-4, 1-2) were ranked ninth (Emerson) and 10th (Mount Holyoke) out of 11 teams.
Suvak said this victory was important for the team’s confidence, especially after losing its first NEWMAC matchup against the Wellesley Blue, 2-0, on Sept. 21.
“It’s important for the girls to see what NEWMAC teams can do,” Suvak said. “They were a good team and we struggled to hang onto our early lead, but the girls did a nice job.”
Despite scoring early, Emerson maintained its aggressive mentality, controlling possession and keeping the action in the offensive third for most of the first half.
Giannone nearly scored again the 56th minute after chasing down a pass on a breakaway toward the Lyons’ goal. She placed a slow, rolling shot past Mount Holyoke keeper Zoe Marshall only to watch it clank away off the right post.
Emerson’s defense gave up three shots on goal and held the Lyons’ top goal scorers Ashleigh Hartsock and Kara Singleton to one shot on target each.
The back line was bolstered by a strong performance from freshman goalkeeper Melanie Escobar, who made three saves in her first conference start. Escobar was called in after injuries to senior goalie Marissa MacDonald and junior Allie Altman.
“I’m very confident in [Escobar],” Suvak said. “She is a very smart goalkeeper.”
Giannone said Escobar’s performance helped her team secure a win she hopes will be a turning point for their season.
“We really needed her energy and we really needed that win,” said Giannone. “We were coming up on .500 record and we want to be better than that because we are better than that. This [NEWMAC] win is a huge push for us.”
The Lions next matchup will be on Sarurday, Oct. 5 when they play on the road against conference opponent Worcester Polytechnic Institute (6-3-1, 0-2).