By Alan Douglas/whitecapsfc.com
Vancouver Whitecaps Prospects Women earned their first Pacific Coast Soccer League win of the season, as they defeated Chilliwack FC 2-1 on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Chilliwack's Townsend Park.
Substitute striker Jenna Di Nunzio netted a late winner for the Prospects on a nice attacking move, with the goal coming just two minutes after Chilliwack had leveled matters at 1-1. The Whitecaps had led for most of the game on a brilliant solo effort by Jaclyn Sawicki, but then failed to take advantage of their numerous chances, and nearly squandered all three points as a consequence.
Prospects head coach Jesse Symons went into the match without starting forwards Alicia Tesan and Janine Frazao, which meant Jenna Richardson and Maryse Reichgeld got the start up front alongside Sawicki in a 4-3-3 formation. However, early in the half, Symons pulled Sawicki back into midfield and pushed the taller Tessa Meyer up into the central striker role. Otherwise, Vancouver fielded the same starters who had performed so well in their season-opening goalless draw at Victoria Stars.
The first good chance fell to the young 'Caps just four minutes in, as Sawicki fired a hard shot, which Chilliwack goalkeeper Jessica Wager did well to hold. Sawicki, though, was just warming up. On 11 minutes, she picked up the ball in midfield wide on the right and turned on the jets. She darted past several defenders and cut into the middle before firing a crisp low shot from the edge of the Chilliwack box, which Wager could only get a piece of. It was a superb goal by Sawicki, which suggested it could be a long afternoon for the home side.
However, the Whitecaps could not keep the intensity level up, and chances were few for either side, as Chilliwack tried to battle their way back. Yet, the quickness of the Prospects players was one of their greatest weapons. On 34 minutes, Jenna Richardson streaked down the right and left her marker in her wake, as she rounded the corner and cut in along the byline. She pulled the ball back for Meyer, whose hard blast was initially parried by Wager before Meyer was unable to get a shot away on the rebound.
For their part, Chilliwack had a couple of shots go off target, but their best chance of the opening half came in time added on. Kristen Vanderpaw got behind the Vancouver backline with a good burst of speed, and then side-stepped the onrushing Gurveen Clair in the Whitecaps goal. However, Vanderpaw was forced wide by some good defending and was unable to get a shot one target.
As a result, the Prospects led 1-0 at the break.
The second half was more eventful, as both teams went looking for a decisive goal. The Whitecaps carried most of the play, but their slender lead never seemed that comfortable. On 51 minutes, Chilliwack came close, as Megan Webster hit a 20-yard shot that seemed destined to the top left-hand corner, but Clair was able to make a superb one-handed save to push it wide of the target.
Vancouver then came back up the field, and Sawicki thought she had scored her second goal on a feed from Meyer, but it was called back for offside.
On the hour mark, Di Nunzio and Meyer broke in alone to chase a through ball, but Wager just barely won the race to clear it - a split second before Di Nunzio could get a toe in. A minute later, the 'Caps hit the woodwork, as Sawicki threaded a great pass to substitute Jessica Hadden behind the defence. Though she stroked the ball past Wager, the ball hit the inside of the post and stayed out.
The Prospects came close again with twenty minutes remaining, as Kendra Williams got the ball to the right of goal, but her driven shot to the far post was pushed wide by Wager with a fingertip save at full stretch.
With Vancouver unable to secure an insurance goal, Chilliwack's attacks grew more menacing as time ticked down. On 77 minutes, speedy young striker Rebecca van Ginkel broke in on the Whitecaps goal, but a perfect tackle in the box by defender Erin Uchacz broke up the play. On 80 minutes, however, Chilliwack got on the scoresheet, as a cross from the right was volleyed in by Ellen Kuyer to make it 1-1.
The equalizer proved to be a wake up call for Symons' young charges, as they immediately raised the tempo of the match looking to reclaim the lost lead. Di Nunzio had a header on target that was saved at 81 minutes, but a minute later, she scored the match-winner after some good approach play. It came from a quick counter-attack by Jessica Hadden on the right, as she played it inside for Meyer, who deftly redirected the pass on to Di Nunzio in space on the left. She dribbled past the onrushing Wager and calmly rolled it the ball into the Chilliwack net.
Chilliwack had one final chance to score with three minutes remaining, as van Ginkel hit a first-time shot from close range to the right of goal, but Clair was in position at the near post and pushed it wide.
After the match, Symons acknowledged that his team's performance left room for improvement, but he was pleased with the way they responded to Chilliwack's goal. "They showed a lot of character to come back and win the game," he told whitecapsfc.com. "As a side, I know we're going to get better."
The win sees the Whitecaps sit in fourth place in the PCSL Premier Division standings. Next up for the Prospects Women is a Tuesday night match-up with Semiahmoo SC at South Surrey Athletic Park. Kick off is at 7:30 p.m. PDT.
Whitecaps Prospects Women
Gurveen Clair; 15.Nikki Ambrose (17.Emily Frazer 45'), 16.Carolyn Bell, 25.Jennifer Castillo (8.Erin Uchacz 21'), 20.Mikyla Kay (11.Kendra Williams 66'); 12.Nicole Setterlund, 4.Natalie Boyd, 19.Tessa Meyer; 3.Maryse Reichgeld (2.Jessica Hadden 45'), 6.Jaclyn Sawicki (14.Sarah Pennington 66'), 22.Jenna Richardson (10.Jenna Di Nunzio 45')