By Randy Speer, The Circuit.
ORANGE BEACH, Alabama – There was a brief discussion on the Benedictine bench on how the team should react to the 5-2 drubbing of No. 5 Mobile in the second round of the NAIA national tournament on Monday night.
Any thoughts of mobbing a captain or jubilant celebration were quickly squashed. This was a team that had been here before, the bench reasoned and the Lady Ravens made that known through their play.
Benedictine came out of the gate swinging, while Mobile played like a team that hadn’t seen a live game in close to two weeks.
Sophomore Anna Romano pulled out an extra gear in the 15th minute fighting for a misplayed ball that was sent forward, drawing a foul just outside the 18-yard box on the end line.
She was rewarded moments later as she gathered the ball played into the box by Olivia Meyers and flicked it over the outstretched hands of Ram goalie Cecilia Duarte.
“She was playing full of confidence and just playing great,” Benedictine coach Lincoln Roblee said on the sophomore’s performance. “You could tell she was living in the moment.”
Romano added her second goal of night, doubling her season total, eight minutes later, ripping a shot from outside the 18-yard box that found the bottom right hand corner of the goal off an assist by sophomore Abbie Hair.
“She didn’t have a statistically great year, but she is someone we would play through in the attack,” Roblee said. “It was almost one of those sabermetric things. It wasn’t one of the home run, RBI or whatever stats, but her possession, pressure and forcing mistakes was leading us to get goals.”
Mobile found a renewed energy in the 31st minute as Colleen Kennedy beat Ellen Loughman in a one-on-one breakaway to half the Lady Raven lead to 2-1, a score which would stand until halftime.
Adding to the intensity of the win-or-go-home match was a steady 15 m.p.h. wind that blew throughout the contest.
The Lady Ravens played with the wind at their back in the opening half, something Roblee called a decision that he would make “100 times out of 100”.
Playing into the wind in the second half had little effect on the Benedictine offense in the second half, as the Lady Ravens used it to their advantage to score their first goal coming out of the break.
Senior Madison Sanders lofted a shot into the wind, and watched as it knuckled past Duarte just 66 seconds into the action to regain a two-score advantage.
“There is always these momentum swings and you can kind of see the confidence,” Roblee said. “When Madison Sanders made it 3-1, the whole team had a shot of confidence and we were able to keep building.”
Benedictine extended its lead in the 71st minute as freshman Emily Ambuul redirected a cross from junior Rosie McShane for a 4-1 lead.
McShane added a goal of her own in the 83rd minute as the final nail in the coffin for the host team.
The Rams added a late-goal in the 88th minute to cut it to 5-2 after the Lady Ravens subbed out the majority of their starters.
As for the celebration after the clock hit zero, Benedictine elected for hugs and high-fives, singing the the Fight Song and then it was over. There might be a bit more emotion shown Wednesday night in the quarterfinals, Benedictine’s third consecutive trip, when the Lady Ravens face conference-rival Baker for a shot at a second-straight semifinals appearance. Kickoff will be at 6:30 p.m.