Over the course of the past several years, the athletic department at Shawnee State University, with the help of additional university officials, have come up with innovative ideas to endorse the Shawnee State brand to its student body, the Scioto County area, and the entire State of Ohio in general.
Tuesday evening’s soccer bouts against Union (Ky.) and Asbury (Ky.) proved to be no different, as a throng of fans came out to support the women’s and men’s soccer programs as they went toe-to-toe with their respective counterparts in the first-ever night games at Shawnee Turf. The Shawnee State women came away with a 1-0 victory behind a powerful shot from Olivia Ball in the 79th minute to cap off an exciting, up-and-down affair against Union, while South Webster’s Alek Blevins scored the first goal of his college career in the Bears’ 3-1 loss to Asbury to cap off a soccer doubleheader at the Shawnee Turf.
SSU 1, Union (Ky.) 0
Behind a 79th-minute goal from Olivia Ball, the Shawnee State Bears’ women’s soccer program was able to outlast Union and a tough defensive-minded group that was led by an outstanding effort from Juliana Schardong in goal, 1-0, as SSU took home its seventh victory over its last 10 affairs dating back to Sept. 28, 2016.
Even though the contest proved to be an up-and-down affair throughout the evening, Shawnee State showed off its vast skill set as a unit as the Bears put up a 3-to-1 advantage in shots attempted (21 to seven) and a 2-to-1 advantage in shots on goal (nine to four) in the contest.
Shawnee State’s Maddie Woodard was able to get free of the Union defense in the 22nd minute, but the Camden, Ohio native’s shot sailed just to the left of the goalpost by mere inches, while Ball’s initial scoring attempt was stopped after a brilliant leaping save by Schardong. Likewise, Michaela Garner, a junior goalkeeper for the Bears, had an equally magnificent save after diving to her right to stop a shot attempt by Union’s Teresa Brown as the game remained scoreless through one half of play.
After Garner made another great save on a Brown attempt in the 49th minute, Shawnee State established control by taking eight of the next nine shot attempts in the half, with Schardong collecting another pair of diving saves to add on to her eight-save effort.
But Ball, thanks to an assist by Sydney Payne, had other ideas as the game drew closer to its finish. Payne, an Ironton native, put a rocket of a pass inside to Ball on the left side of the box, and after turning toward the goal, Ball put together a perfect shot that sailed over the outstretched arms of Schardong to conclude the match in Shawnee State’s favor.
The victory puts SSU at 1-0 on the season and means that the Bears will have a chance to start the season with a 3-0 tally if weekend contests against Maine-Fort Kent (Friday) and Rochester College (Mich.) (Sunday) go its way. The meeting against Maine-Fort Kent is the Bears’ first, while SSU is 1-1-1 all-time against Rochester.
Asbury (Ky.) 3, SSU 1
Despite a strong performance from several local hands, including Alek Blevins and Shane Zimmerman, the Bears weren’t able to maintain control of a 1-0 lead as Shawnee State fell to Asbury (Ky.), 3-1, in Tuesday evening’s nightcapper to start the season 0-3.
Even with the defeat, Ron Goodson, who is in his 19th year of coaching the SSU program, is excited about the possibilities that he sees in the Bears’ starting lineup.
“We may have three losses in three games, but I believe that we’re getting better each game,” Goodson said. “As a coaching staff, that’s what we’ve tried to preach to them. We just want to get better each time out and do good things. We’re still young, but I like what I see. The futures inside our squad are definitely promising.”
That’s especially evident with Blevins, who has only continued to show off his diverse talents since arriving at SSU. After barely missing on back-to-back shot attempts in the first half, Blevins found space on the near side in the 55th minute and pounded a ball home off a pass from fellow newcomer Mitchell Patchett to put the Bears up by a 1-0 tally.
“Alek collected an excellent goal there,” Goodson said. “He could’ve collected two more goals in the first half, but he hit one off of the crossbar and had another that was saved. He put together a strong performance there. You have three local kids (Blevins, Bryce Romanello, and Shane Zimmerman) that performed very well and gave us a chance to win, we just didn’t get the breaks we needed to in order to come out with the win.”
Unfortunately, a foul in the box less than 10 minutes later made that lead a shot lived on. Behind Isaac Amaya’s persistence, the freshman was able to draw a foul in the 63rd minute, and, on the ensuing shot, beat goalkeeper Zach Smith with his shot that found the back net on the far side of the field. Eight minutes later, Amaya again did damage by taking a pass from Owen Sigey on the left side and converting it into a goal. Noah Welch added the finishing touches in the 84th minute to conclude the scoring.
The penalty kick hurt,” Goodson said. “I believe that the momentum completely shifted once they got that.”
Despite the loss, there were plenty of positives during the game to take note of. One of those positives was the play of Shane Zimmerman, who battled through cramps en route to covering most of the far side of the field.
“Shane’s getting in game shape now,” Goodson said. “I told him after the game that he has progressed. He was our latest addition to the team, and since he’s arrived, he’s been getting better and better. I like seeing him out there.”
With the losses, Shawnee State will play Judson (Ill.) and Saint Francis (Ind.) on Saturday and Sunday in Fort Wayne, Ind. The Bears will have to collect wins in both affairs, as well as a Sept. 9 bout against Brescia (Ky.) to move back to .500 before a home bout with Ohio Christian on Sept. 12.
“We’ve got two tough contests this weekend against Judson and St. Francis and we’re down to our third-string goalie right now (Zach Smith),” Goodson said. “However, I thought that he played a heck of a game for us as well. We should get (Matthew) Boreman back next week sometime, as well, so we’re alright.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7