Special to the Herald
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON – Going in to the 2013 season opener, the Ashford University women’s soccer team knew it was going to be challenged against a nationally ranked opponent.
At the end of the day, the Saints passed their first test of the year.
The 20th-ranked Saints got goals from seniors Sarah Schreck and Hollie Babut and used a suffocating defense to down No. 23 Baker University 2-0 on Saturday.
“It was a really good team performance,” coach Mick Regan said. “We made good use of our scoring chances in the first half, and after that we shut them down. Jess (VanDyke, Ashford’s goalkeeper) didn’t really have to make any tough saves. I was really happy with how tight we were defensively, and that was the biggest key for us.”
Ashford opened the scoring in the 11th minute, when a corner kick from Schreck took a strange bounce in front of the net that caromed off Baker goalkeeper Rachel Theobald into the cage for her first career goal as a Saint.
That score would hold up until the 40th minute, when Babut added some insurance. The Oshawa, Ontario, native finished off a beautiful passing play from Hannah Scheid and Alicia Tamburro for her 46th career tally, giving the Saints some breathing room.
From there, the Ashford defense took over, suffocating the Wildcats attack at every turn. VanDyke turned away all three shots she faced with ease to notch her sixth career shutout.
At the end of the day, the Saints learned a lot about their young defensive unit.
“They kept it simple,” Regan said. “That’s what you want to see out of your back line. We didn’t do anything flashy, just won the ball and battled. One of our biggest concerns was how young our defense is and how they would work together, and I feel like they really matured today.”
The Saints outshot the Wildcats 14-10, getting five shots apiece from Babut and Tamburro. Ashford also held a 7-4 edge in corner kicks.
Theobald stopped four shots on goal for Baker, and Lesley Johnson led all attackers with four shots.
Next up for the Saints is a trip to Chicago to face off with Tennessee Wesleyan on Saturday.