Clarke, Ritter Key Rally as WSOC Earns Draw

Senior Ashley Clarke moved into a tie for third on the school's all-time assists list on Friday night.

Senior Ashley Clarke moved into a tie for third on the school's all-time assists list on Friday night.

Aug 23, 2013

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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - On a picture perfect evening for soccer and before a near capacity crowd that filled Owen T. Carroll Field on Friday night, the 2013 Seton Hall women's soccer team came away with a 2-2 draw against defending America East champions Stony Brook in their first match of the new campaign.

As was the case in the two preseason exhibition matches, SHU pressed the issue from the first whistle, putting the Stony Brook net under constant pressure in the opening minutes. Despite spending the majority of the time in the attacking third, the Pirates found themselves in an early hole when Stony Brook got on the board first behind an eighth minute strike from Stella Norman that came against the run of play.

SBU took advantage of one of the few opportunities they had created to that point in the match, capitalizing on a foul committed by The Hall deep in its own zone and using a quick restart to sneak one by keeper Jennifer Pettigrew (Kearny, N.J.).

The hosts responded by continuing to pepper the Seawolves' net, but that initial breakthrough remained elusive. Less than five minutes after Norman's tally, Stony Brook forward Larissa Nysch found space in behind the Pirates back line, collecting a pass from teammate Megan Rea in stride just outside the six-yard box and slotting it past Pettigrew and inside the near post to double the Pirates' deficit.

The two-goal spread didn't last long as in the 19th minute, seniors Ashley Clarke (Paramus, N.J.) and Katie Ritter (Hagerstown, Md.) combined on a brilliant sequence that brought Seton Hall back to within one.

Ritter held the ball up well from her center forward position and with her back to goal, laid the ball off to a rushing Clarke who opened the scoring ledger for The Hall with a perfectly placed right-footed rocket from outside the top of the area.

The goal was the eighth that the Paramus product has scored in a Seton Hall uniform, and a fitting start to the new year after she finished as the team's leading scorer in 2012.

The rest of the opening 45 passed relatively uneventfully and Seton Hall carried a 5-2 advantage in shots and 4-0 edge in corners won into the break.

Following the start of the second half, the teams traded opportunities over the first 15 minutes. With the score still stuck at 2-1 in Stony Brook's favor, it was another bit of magic from the duo of Clarke and Ritter that put the teams back on level terms.

Clarke, who tied the school's single season assists record with eight in her junior season, played a dangerous ball into the Stony Brook area, forcing SBU keeper Ashley Castanio to commit to coming off her line. Ritter was able to win the race to the ball and with a sliding touch, tuck a shot inside the far post to bring the score to 2-2 with nearly 65 minutes gone.

With the score, Ritter now sits in a tie for third on the school's all-time goals list with 17 to her name. Also, her three-point night brought her to 38 for her career and within a single point of cracking the top-five on the points list.  

The assist also moved Clarke into a tie with former teammate Nicki Gross for third-most in school history, giving her 13 in her career.

The remainder of regulation was an offensive onslaught from the Pirates, as the team received a significant boost from freshmen Sarah Cortes (Paramus, N.J.) and Frankie Maier (Oradell, N.J.) who both wreaked havoc for the SBU defense throughout the night; winning balls, finding teammates and testing Castanio themselves on a number of occasions.

Stony Brook did have the chance to counter attack, but some of the more threatening efforts were thwarted by sophomore D'Yonna Riley (Washingtonville, N.Y.). Within a 60-second span late in the half, she denied two potential breakaway opportunities by chasing down a streaking SBU player and playing the ball into safety.

Riley was part of a youthful back line employed by head coach Kazbek Tambi that included fellow sophomore Emily Hansinger (Mount Laurel, N.J.) and Cathy Chukuka (Marlboro, N.J.), the third SHU freshman that made her collegiate debut on Friday night.

Following the two early mishaps, the group settled in nicely and along with Pettigrew, who totaled four saves in her first match since 2011, stifled Stony Brook's efforts to add a third.

 The teams remained deadlocked after 90 minutes, sending the contest into overtime. Just three minutes into the first sudden-death period, Stony Brook won a corner kick and Norman produced a ball that fell right to the head of teammate Emily Murrer. Murrer's header appeared to be earmarked for the back of the net but Clarke was stationed near post and was on the spot to clear the danger for The Hall.

That proved to be the best chance for either team to find a winner in extra time as after 110 grueling, physical minutes of action, the game ended in a 2-2 draw.

The result continued a number of notable trends for The Hall as the Pirates extended their unbeaten streak in home matches against non-league opponents to nine straight dating back to 2010. Seton Hall is also undefeated in its last nine matches in the month of August and now boasts a 15-2-2 mark in the last 19 matches in which the team has scored at least two goals.

The Pirates hit the road for the first time in 2013 next Monday, when they travel to take on reigning NEC champions LIU-Brooklyn. Start-time is set for 6:00 p.m.