After losing three consecutive games, the University of Cincinnati (UC) soccer program recovered their form with a 2-1 victory over the University of Tennessee this past Sunday – improving their overall record to 2-4.
The Bearcats soccer program was one of the most largely affected within the university following the March 2020 lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not a single game was played, and the counterpart men's soccer program was altogether discontinued.
Since returning to the pitch, head coach Neil Stafford and his team have been performing with mixed results. When the program won both of their exhibition games against Miami University and Xavier University before the regular season began, it looked to be a promising season.
However, before their win against Tennessee on Sunday, the Bearcats won just one out of their first four games. Now, the Bearcats must finish their remaining four games strong if they hope to have momentum heading into the annual American Athletic Conference Tournament.
Sunday's match against the Volunteers was a dramatic one, as neither side broke the deadlock until UC's Laura Bastian converted from the penalty spot in the 74th minute. It was the Bearcat's first goal in 253 minutes of open play.
However, not long after, Tennessee responded with a stroke of luck in the 76th to make things even again. A UC deflection resulted in the ball hitting the post before creeping over the goal line, resulting in an own goal.
Bearcat sophomore Kendall Battle stepped up under pressure with a draw looming overhead and put the Bearcats up once more in the 83rd minute with a headed goal after a cross from Bastian found its way into the box.
Bastian's efforts from the spot provided her first goal of the season, while her cross also marked her first assist of the season. Battle's winner was her first goal of the season, as well.
The inaugural marks reflect just how much of a team-oriented style of play the Bearcats possess, as not one player has more than one goal on the entire season – resulting in six different players scoring all of UC's six goals so far in 2021.
Moreover, no one has more than one assist as well. Bastian's goal and assist against Tennessee made her the only player on the roster to contribute in each category this season.
Cincinnati's leading forwards, Sophie Gorman and Vanessa DiNardo, have just one goal between them, scored by the latter. Of the pairs collective sixteen shots this season, only four of them have been on target. It is resulting in a meager 25 effective shot percentage.
Now, the Bearcats look ahead to play only American Athletic Conference opponents for the remainder of the season. If they look to bolster their seeding for the tournament, the bounce back will look to start now.
The all-conference schedule begins with a matchup against the University of Houston on Mar. 24 at noon. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.