WINTER PARK, Fla. (October 13, 2010) - Senior defender Leah Hirsch ripped a penalty kick into the bottom left corner in the 61st minute as the fifth-ranked Rollins women's soccer team defeated the Saint Leo University Lions 1-0 on Wednesday evening at Barker Family Stadium and Cahall-Sandspur Field.
Rollins (9-1-1, 4-0-1 SSC) earned the scoring opportunity after Saint Leo (4-6-1, 1-3-1 SSC) was called for a hand ball within their own box. Hirsch stepped up to take the penalty kick, and sent a hard shot past SLU goalkeeper Audrey Bernier-Larose for the game-winning tally.
"We did a good job tonight against a very determined and talented Saint Leo squad," said head coach Patrick Baker. "We started the game well, and had a number of chances in the first fifteen minutes. Saint Leo then started to take the game to us and forced us to be predictable in our play. We used a number of different combinations in the first 45 minutes to see if anything, or anyone, could change the complexion of the game."
At the end of the first half, Saint Leo led the shot count 7-3, and had a slim advantage in corner kick opportunities, 4-3. Despite the stats, the Tars were solid in all areas of the field throughout the initial 45 minutes of play, and entered into the half with the upper hand after dictating the pace of the game towards the break.
"The points we addressed at half time were taken to heart, and we entered into the second half looking good," Baker continued. "We had shots, corners and three great looks at goal before getting the deserved penalty kick. I was proud of Leah for stepping up and hitting her PK after hitting the post in the same situation against Barry last Saturday evening. She showed great leadership and composure, and came through when we needed her most."
Rollins exploded into the second half, out-shooting the Lions 8-2, and stifling their opponent on corners 4-1. The Tars kicked into high gear early on, with Annie Pippert finding a good look on frame that was saved by Bernier-Larose just three minutes in.
Pippert had another close call just minute later off of a feed from Ashley Waplinger. Pippert's strike looked to be on target, but deflected off of the left post to keep the Tars off of the scoreboard. But a blocked shot from Waplinger two minutes later generated the handball on the Lions that would send Hirsch to the line.
Hirsch notched her second goal of the season, and fifth-game winner of her career. Along with her goal-scoring performance, Hirsch was also part of a stellar back line that included Meagan Thomas, Anita Cox, and Whitney Rohrer. The foursome held the Lions to just nine shots, and only four on frame, and earned a team save to help keep SLU off of the scoreboard.
With three saves on the evening, Rollins goalkeeper Michelle Dillingham picked up her sixth shutout of the season, and stays unbeaten on the season after returning to action in the Tars' third contest of the season.
"The shutout was pleasing because we had been alternating clean sheets the past five games, and the team needed to show a strong defensive presence tonight," added Baker. "We did a better job as the game wore on, and the back four dealt with a lot of longer balls as the game came to an end. Clock management was better for us tonight, and the players showed some sophistication in the final minutes of play."
The Tars earn their fourth Sunshine State Conference victory of the season, and remain unbeaten in conference play. Rollins has four games remaining in their 2010 regular season slate, with three of those contests matching up against conference rivals.
"The players are excited about their record and national ranking, and it shows in practice," Baker concluded. "We had two good days of training over fall break, and showed some signs of improvement in each area of the field. We need a combination of rest, video, and quality training before we play at Lynn on Sunday afternoon, but the team is looking forward to their next challenge."
Rollins returns to action on Sunday, October 17, when they take on Lynn University in conference play. The Tars square off against the Fighting Knights in Boca Raton, Fla., with game time slated for 2:00 p.m. Fans will be able to catch all of the action live on the Tars Sports Network at RollinsSports.com.