HOCKESSIN — Padua became just the third team to score a goal against Middletown this season, but it wasn’t enough as the Cavaliers took a 2-1 decision on May 9 at Hockessin Soccer Club. It was about the battle expected in the meeting between the top-ranked Pandas and No. 2 Middletown.
The Cavaliers entered the game scoring more than five goals per outing, but this game seemed destined for a low-scoring finish given the strong defenses of both teams. It only took a few minutes, however, for Middletown to get on the board. That happened in the fourth minute, as Gabby Reilly chipped a left-footed shot over Pandas goalkeeper Claire Campbell for the 1-0 lead.
Cavaliers keeper Ava Ripanti kept it that way a few minutes later when she stopped a shot by Sophia Holgado, and Padua could not take advantage of back-to-back corner kicks. After the second corner, however, the Cavaliers countered, missing a shot just wide. Later in the half, the Pandas’ Haley Dougherty sent a cross past Ripanti and just wide left, and on another chance, she tipped a ball over Ripanti but couldn’t get to it for a shot.
The Pandas’ best chance in the first half came in the 34th minute after a miscue by the Cavaliers that gave the ball back to Dougherty some 20 yards out. Her shot rang off the crossbar above Ripanti, who recovered in time to make a diving stab when Olivia Shimp tried to poke the loose ball into the net.
Middletown also had chances in the first half. One turnover resulted in a dangerous crossing pass, and another steal ended with a save by Campbell. Emma Minzer turned a one-on-two situation into a shot that was just over the crossbar.
For the most part, the Cavs’ defense was on point, packing the back line to prevent the Pandas from setting up on offense, and creating opportunities for their own offense off of turnovers. That continued into the second half, and after a Cavaliers’ free kick went through the box in front of Campbell, they capitalized in the 48th minute. A free kick from near midfield resulted in a scramble in the 18-yard box, and Katie Li found the ball and sent it to the far side past Campbell to double the lead.
The teams traded chances as the half wore on, including another free kick off the crossbar for the Pandas, this time from Lauren Duffy. Duffy’s next shot was on the mark, as she drilled a penalty kick past Ripanti in the 60th to cut the deficit to a goal.
Middletown responded with a shot that went over the net, but the momentum for most of the final 15 minutes belonged to the Pandas. Ripanti stopped a shot from Dougherty, and with about four minutes to go, the keeper executed a great diving save to her right off a set play on a free kick to preserve the lead. Finally, a 40-yard free kick from Padua went just wide.
Middletown had a 7-5 edge in shots. Ripanti had four saves. The Cavaliers (12-0) visit Mount Pleasant on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.
The Pandas had four corners to the Cavs’ three. Campbell finished with six saves. They are now 8-3 and meet St. Elizabeth on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at Hockessin Soccer Club.
All photos by Mike Lang.