PIKEVILLE – The University of Pikeville women’s soccer team opened its season Saturday with a confident performance to earn a 2-0 win against Bryan College.
The visiting Lions threatened the Bears in the early going, but UPIKE pulled away thanks to a pair of goals from a pair of sophomores. Olivia Gipson breached the tie in the 32nd minute with a big assist from senior midfielder Kara Henning’s long ball into the box. Then with 17 seconds remaining before halftime Kayla Scott blasted home the Bears’ second after controlling fellow sophomore Kayla Robertson’s through ball.
The Bears spent most of the opening 10 minutes watching sophomore goalkeeper Chelsea Schulte take goal kicks, as the Lions had trouble keeping their crosses inbounds in windy conditions. Bryan College’s Morgan Thompson finally got the first shot off in the 10th minute, but when Schulte made a comfortable save it looked as though UPIKE would score on the counter-attack. After the Bears turned possession over to the Lions on the ensuing corner kick, the game settled into a war of attrition with each side struggling to control midfield.
Henning, Scott, and sophomore Eleanor Hollingsworth each tried their luck from long range, but Henning and Scott were denied by the Lions’ junior keeper Stephanie Gagnon, and Hollingsworth’s effort blazed over the crossbar.
In the 31st minute freshman midfielder Erin Randle came on and had an immediate impact, winning the ball in her first touch and then proceeding to win a free kick in the attacking third. Henning’s clinical delivery of the free kick led to Gipson’s 32nd minute goal.
After nearly notching another one a minute later, the Bears continued to show attacking intent. In the 45th minute UPIKE was able to hit on the break as Robertson led Scott perfectly with a through ball to bag a goal just before the halftime buzzer sounded.
Gipson nearly earned a brace in the 50th minute with a burst of speed. Having beaten two defenders, Gipson’s shot in the box was just left of the post. The Lions’ counter-attack came to nothing when sophomore forward Emily Lambert pulled her shot wide after receiving a cross from Thompson.
Undeterred, the Lions won a corner in the 55th, but a strong effort at goal was denied by a skillful goal line clearance from freshman Kaitlyn Abdon.
With the Bears still pulling the trigger in front of the Lions’ goal, Bryan College had several more counter-attacking opportunities. The highlight of these came when senior Kaitlyn Bryant took a driven effort from just inside the box, forcing Schulte to produce an acrobatic save to tip the ball over the bar.
The Lions’ last chance to pull a goal back came in the 82nd minute from a free kick near the edge of the box. Bryant’s effort took a dangerous deflection off the wall, but again a Bears outfield player was there with quick reflexes to make a goal line clearance, this time senior defender Whitney Anderson.