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The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

Cal Times

The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

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Women’s Soccer Blazed their Way to a Win

The Vulcans Women’s Soccer Team kicked off their season at home with a win
Nathan Kurtz
Vulcans Women’s Soccer

Halloween 2015, was the last time the PennWest California women’s soccer team tasted victory against Thursday evening’s visitors, the Eagles from Lock Haven. In the past six years, the Vulcans have lost to Lock Haven a combined score of 3 goals to Talons’ 12 over four contests.

Near the end of longer runs, a thought races to every runner; “why not push past history tonight?” Then the feet leave the lactic acid behind, flying down these Western Pennsylvanian ravines. The Thursday evening air tasted memorable to the Women Vulcans.

Setting up in a defensive 4-3-3 with two deep lying defensive midfielders and a false nine, the Vulcans felt the weight of history for the first 35 minutes. The home players dug deep trenches.

Freshman Caelin Thomas (#5) faced heavy pressure from Lock Haven’s Junior winger #9 Sydney Stahl. Within the game’s first three minutes, Stahl gathered a pass, cut in then out, and played a peach of a far-post cross to her oncoming striker. The ball never connected with the striker’s, the crowd let loose a sigh of relief. Lock Haven had the Vulcans locked in their own half for the majority of the first 15 minutes. However, within the barrage of corners and lack of possession, the blacksmiths never gave the Eagles a clear chance. The absence of a Lock Haven threat was remarkable as Vulcan Coach Pete Curtis named three Freshmen and four Sophomores to Thursday’s starting team sheet. Forward Meja Haakansson (from Halmstad, Sweden), right winger Kaitlin Bickhart and left back Thomas all played far above their respectful class in their college debuts.

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Within Lock Haven’s siege, Cal found their character in the small moments. Junior goalkeeper Emily Ouimet (#1) courageously punched away crosses as her dominance was challenged time and time again from in-swinging corners. At one point, Ouimet and her defensive unit faced three straight corners, never braking. Bickhart’s (#2) thunderous header negated a Lock Haven corner in the sixth minute. Moments later, Junior left winger Ashley Venezia (#3) connected with Bickhart for the Vulcans’ first chance. Hope was born from small significant actions.

The first stages of Vulcan possession were choppy. During one attempt to play out of the back, Sophomore central defender Katey Burns (#30) could be heard clamoring for passing options. Last year, seven Vulcans graduated leaving behind outside-back Cora Wilkins (#6) as this season’s sole Senior. The maturity exodus resulted in a little bit of possession chaos, to be expected, as this young team found game pace. But as the game marched forward, the chaos met control. By the fifteenth minute, Cal was able to swing the ball from left back to right back with a noticeable level of comfort. However, the possession still missed forward progression. Lock Havens’ upperclassmen central midfielders, Junior Leana Cuzzocrea (#28) and Senior Jocelyn Kuhns (#25), were too experienced to be played through. Together they were the bane of Cal’s progression throughout the first half.

As the stalemate lingered longer, larger grew the Vulcans’ confidence. Within the patchwork of inexperience, those with experience imprinted on the game. Lock Haven lobbed through ball after ball over Junior central defender Hannah Morton’s (#18) head, unbothered, she simply passed the ball back to Ouimet every time. Ouimet would then pull an Ederson, juking an incoming Eagle and calmly passing to one of her four defenders. Morton to Ouimet to another defender then an attempted forward pass intercepted either by Lock Haven’s #28 or #25, rinse and repeat at least a half dozen times in the first quarter hour. 

Then within the 24th minute, the girls in white painted a pretty picture of potential. Thomas won the ball back with an oppressive tackle, a quick give-and-go with Venezia to get around a now-redundant Eagle. Thomas tapped the ball to Cal’s resident Busquet, Junior Lorina Romeis (#22), who found the Swede Haakansson further up the pitch. Eventually the Eagles regained the ball but, like a mongoose tasting cobra for the first time, the Vulcans felt the predator become prey.

As the battlefield became littered with tired legs, each manager began replenishing their troops through substitutions. In the 20th minute, Junior midfielder Reagan Bromiley (#17) gave way for Freshman forward Veronica Warunek’s (#25) debut. Ten minutes later, Warunek almost broke through Lock Haven’s left flank only to be emphatically stopped by a crunching Eagle tackle. Senior Wilkins received her moment in the sun in the 29th minute, ending Bickhart’s impressive first shift. In the 35th minute, a Sophomore-for-Sophomore shuffle resulted from the patient false nine Christyana Sims (#23) swapping places with attacking midfielder Kaylee Elwood (#21).

Within the muddle of first half substitutions, the impacts of two stood above the rest. Much to the Vulcans’ relief, Lock Haven’s Kuhns finally caught her breath, exiting the field for Junior teammate Luca Verello (#20). The 35th-minute removal of Kuhns opened up some wiggle room in the middle of the park for Vulcan progression. In the dusk of the first half, Junior Bella Gilberto (#11) replaced Haakansson on the Vulcans’ left wing. While Haakansson performed admirably, there were moments of youthful hesitancy. Gilberto was eager. The Hanover native engraved her physicality on the Eagles’ backline immediately. The dichotomy between Haakansson and Gilberto shocked the Eagles’ now-bullied right defensive flank. While her foresisters constructed the canines, the substitute brought the much-needed bite. 

The opening half came to a close with the sun setting behind the grandstand, the contest still locked in a stalemate. Much like the discipline of a raw German Shepard, the Vulcans left the dog house behind after halftime. Phippsburg Facility was their momma’s lawn, so Pete Curtis threw governmental oversight out and let his chaos lineup start the final half. From left to right, Gilberto, Warunek and Sophomore Sorava Gibbs (#9) formed a physical running front three with the strength and creativity of Elwood as their financial backing. All four did not start the game. Hunger hung in the air like humidity. The electric pressing of the quartet drove the Eagles into unfamiliar territory, backed into their own goal line. 

Wolves nipping down the sickly elk, eventually the hunt bore fruit in the 49th minute. Lock Haven coughed up the ball on the half line. Elwood, sick of attempting to play through the Eagles’ veteran midfield, gathered the turnover, thought “fine, I’ll go over the city walls instead”, and laced a lobbed pass over the Eagles’ three-women backline onto Warunek’s back-breaking run. The Red Sea parted, the Freshman strolled into a striker’s dream. The world evaporated into simplicity; just the rookie, the goalie, and the beckoning treasure behind the polyurethane gloves. Warunek calmly slots the ball past the polyurethane, 1-0 Vulcans. 

The game slowly tapered off into minute flashpoints with the stalemate broken. The crowd rose in retaliation as the ref failed to mark Eagle defender Madeline Foster (#23) yellow for her tactical take-down of Warunek in the 51st minute. Two minutes later, Lady Luck denied Lock Haven’s spitfire forward Evelyn Ciaccia (#24) the equalizer as the Senior’s shot hurled into the underside of the Vulcan’s crossbar only to somehow not cross the goal line. The score remained 1-0. The Vulcans almost doubled their lead in the 56th minute. Sophomore defender Izabella DeGlopper (#15) found Gilberto with a threaded pass to Lock Haven’s right corner flag. Gilberto’s ball into Lock Haven’s box found Warunek, who’s whiff then skipped past the sliding Venezia at the back post. Still somehow 1-0.

Coach Curtis rotated back in the majority of his starting frontline. Gilberto and Gibbs, having given the Eagle defenders Stockholm Syndrome, were subbed off for the more control focused Sims and Haakansson. Warunek maintained her place up top the entire second half. With the more patient frontline, the pressing petered off and the game caught its breath.

The game entered a rut in its remaining quarter. The street fight between Vulcan’s Bern and Lock Haven’s Ciaccia would have had Akira Yasuda applauding. Bern’s pestering eventually resulted in Ciaccia, now paying tribute to Kim Possible with her rolled-up jersey, retaliating and receiving a yellow card in the 64th minute. 

Within the 74th minute, Lock Haven almost evened the score with Freshman Bonita Brigido’s (#14) volley off of a Cuzzocrea headed pass. Again Lock Haven came knocking as the persistent Ciaccia finally got the better of the resilient Bern, creating a one-on-one against Ouitmet. Unlike her counterpart a half an hour prior, the Vulcans’ former Berwick Bulldog kept her goal spotless with a sliding knee save. 

After bumping, bruising, and blistering each other for an entire match; either the two competitors will end up as colleagues or enemies. After fighting over the left flank for 84 minutes, the Vulcans’ Thomas and the Eagles’ Stahl shared a low five as Stahl picked herself up from a taxing Thomas tackle. The battle between the two was worth the ticket price alone. 

As precious and fragile as a ladybug, only a one-goal lead separated the Vulcans from resetting history or just being part of it. Sleeping in a bed with two pillows is much better than one. With four minutes left on the clock, the women blacksmiths gave their ladybug an additional pillow to rest on. Every single of Lock Haven’s corners were of one variety. Simply shoot the ball onto the head of the Vulcan goalkeeper, surely someone will bully the ball pass Ouimet. Unfortunately for the visitors, capitulate has no place in Ouimet’s vocabulary. With four minutes left, the Vulcans won a corner. Romeis did not waste the chance to state “anything you can do, I can do better” as she spammed B, firing the corner on top of Lock Haven’s keeper, Sophomore Megan Miller (#00). PSAC Scholar-Athlete Bromiley bodied the German’s corner across the goal line. 2-0 Vulcans, game, set, match. 

Goaltender Emily Ouimet (Nathan Kurtz)

With 90 seconds remaining, Lock Haven’s Kim-Possible Ciaccia finally found the back of the net with a cracking shot from just inside the left corner of the Vulcan’s 18-yard box. She deserved the goal. However, with only a few grains of sand left in the hourglass, the game was over. 2-1 Vulcans.

The sun kissed the horizon as the ref blew the final whistle. Vulcan women soccer began their season now doused in the integrity earned from a hard-fought victory. Enable me here to break proper reporter structure for a brief moment. My player of the game was Caelin Thomas. Beginning your college career on the opposite side of the pitch of your bench, isolated from your coach and teammates while playing mere feet away from the traveling team’s fans, is no easy task. On top of the lack of support, Thomas had to prohibit Stahl, a veteran three years her Senior, from taking her to the dance. The Freshman played the entire 90 minutes, Stahl had to be subbed off after 40 minutes of being penned in by the left back. Stahl has played in 57 collegiate games, Thomas was halfway through her first. That 84th-minute low five was well deserved. My honorable mentions are Hannah Morton, who had a Naomi Girma-esche performance, Veronica Warunek, who scored in her college debut, Lorina Romeis, who you watch if you want to see the game, and Emily Ouimet, who’s passing composure terrified and calmed the fans all within the same moment.

Great game Vulcans! The women’s next home game is Saturday, Sept. 9 at 2 P.M. only a half mile off campus at the Phippsburg Facility. They will be hosting the Fighting Scots from our sister college, Edinboro.

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About the Contributor
Nathan Kurtz, Staff Writer/Photographer
Class 2026 Sports Management Major. Sports photographer and member of CUTV and WCAL

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