CLEVELAND, Ohio - Senior Sarah Krause, a Cleveland native who transferred to CSU this past offseason, made the most of her homecoming as she scored the game-winning goal with just two seconds left in overtime to give the Cleveland State University women's soccer team a 2-1 victory over Howard in each team's season opener on a warm and humid Friday evening at Krenzler Field.
Senior Dani Sowinski had taken the ball from near midfield into the offensive third and played a lovely ball into the box that slipped Krause in behind. She settled the ball with her first touch and then calmly slipped it into the low right netting to send the Viking bench into jubilation.
CSU actually trailed, 1-0, with 30 minutes left in the match but had used a tying goal by freshman Ja'Maya Ward to level the proceedings and force overtime. It was hard to argue the winning goal was anything but deserved as the Vikings posted a 19-6 advantage in shots for the match.
"Coming out of the exhibition games we were relatively pleased with how we played, but the biggest thing we talked about this week was 'playing good soccer' wasn't quite enough to get results," head coach Dallas Boyer said. "So to not only win, but win the way we did tonight, was exactly what we needed. Coming back against a very good Howard team and finding an equalizer, then pushing on to get the winner with seconds left in the first overtime was a perfect first step as we continue finding out who exactly we are early in the early in the season."
The game started slowly over the first 30 minutes with each team only getting one good look at goal.
For the Vikings, that look came in just the third minute as senior McKenna Vento had a shot go just wide while battling off a defender in the center of the box. Sophomore Stevie Holbrook, making her first collegiate start, was called into action in the 18th minute when she made a diving save to her right and kept the rebound out of a dangerous area.
The Vikings started to take control of the game in the final third of the opening half, outshooting Howard, 6-0, over the final 14 minutes of the opening 45. Sophomore Jenna Prathapa had four of those shots, including a header in the 44th minute that slipped just wide of the post after senior Carly Cerny had done well with her service.
Cleveland State's momentum seemed to halt at the halftime intermission, and Howard took advantage. With just under 10 minutes gone in the second stanza, the Bison took advantage of a CSU turnover in the midfield and immediately pushed the ball forward to Jasmin Miller. Miller's high shot from inside the box escaped Holbrook's leap and put the visitors on top.
The Vikings immediately responded as Prathapa nearly scored less than a minute later. She would soon be involved in the tying goal as she dribbled past a defender toward the end line and then whipped a cross into the middle. The ball redirected back toward the top of the box where Ward ripped a shot toward the bottom right corner to tie the match.
The Vikings largely controlled the remainder of regulation although Howard did provide a worry on occasion with its speed on attack. CSU outshot the Bison, 7-0, in the final 14 minutes of the 90.
The Bison did have a good look at goal in the 85th minute but were unable to get a shot off from within the six-yard box. In the 89th minute, the Vikings came close to a winner as senior Toni Dickson's header went just wide off a free-kick service from Krause.
Howard had the first two shots of the extra session, including a dangerous chance in the 93rd minute after a giveaway by the CSU back line. Holbrook made a diving stop to her right to allow her teammate to claim heroics minutes later.
Ward came close to grabbing her second goal in the 95th minute as she popped a ball over her defender near the edge of the box, but her low shot went wide.
With the clock ticking down, it appeared a second overtime would be needed, but thanks to Sowinski's run and pass and Krause's coolness under pressure, the Vikings ended the contest just before the rain could start.
"Looking at the boxscore, the biggest thing that jumps out is the disparity in the shots category that is so great in our favor, but we actually had FEWER shots on goal," Boyer said. "I don't think I've ever seen a reverse that big before. So we need to continue to get cleaner in the final third so that we aren't just creating hopeful half chances and close calls, but turning all of that pressure into cleaner goal-scoring opportunities more often. Way too many times tonight we were one final pass, a better first touch in the box, a better cross or a more composed finish away from breaking the game open early."
Boyer also had praise for his team's defensive effort in limiting Howard.
"Finally, to be as composed and organized defensively with three players still returning from injury and losing Ashley for the game due to her injury was awesome," Boyer said. "Toni, Kailah, Bri, Carly, Dani and Stacie battled against an extremely dynamic and athletic Howard attack and dealt with it very well."
Holbrook made four saves to claim the win.
Freshman Aubrey Bechter joined Ward in making her collegiate debut Friday.
Each of the last seven CSU regular-season games that have gone to overtime has had a winning team, with the Vikings winning five of those matches.
Cleveland State will compete again in under 48 hours as it hosts Chicago State Sunday, Aug. 19, at 1:00 p.m.