HOCKESSIN – Padua Academy dominated possession for large stretches of time but could not solve Caesar Rodney’s compact defense in an early season showdown between two Division I powers Tuesday afternoon at the Hockessin Soccer Complex.
The top-ranked Pandas changed their angle of attack for the second half and also became more physical, and as a result, they found the back of the net twice to earn a 2-0 home victory over the Riders in girls soccer action.
“We were struggling in front of the net, and we had plenty of opportunities. It was just that one chance. At halftime, we talked about how it required one chance to break them,” Padua’s Emilia Ryjewski said. “It was brilliant ball played in by Ashlee [Bertlinger], and I found myself on the end of it. I knew I had to finish.”
Before the go-ahead goal, the Pandas had 11 shots on goal and several others were just off target, but most of those came from long range as third-ranked Caesar Rodney’s defense was difficult to infiltrate, requiring Padua to move the point of attack to the flanks.
After a cross, the ball found the foot of Ryjewski, and she took a shot, which deflected off a Rider player into the net to give the Pandas a 1-0 lead in 52nd minute. Just 23 minutes later, another cross found her feet, and after her initial shot was stopped, Ryjewski blasted the rebound into the net to make it 2-0.
Another reason why Padua’s ability to finish improved in the second half was that the players had more intensity than in the first half.
“I think in the first half, we came out a little soft. In the second, we realized that we needed to hit them first,” Ryjewski said. “So, we went out, we remained physical, and I think that helped us and carried us forward.”
While Caesar Rodney’s defense was consistently under attack, the back line held strong against the unrelenting pressure by staying in formation, forcing the Pandas (5-0) to take most of their shots from the outside.
“Our back four tries to play connected. They move as a unit, and they try to put pressure on the ball, and the other three try to squeeze the space,” Rider head coach Darrell Gravatt said. “We try to stay out of our box as much as possible. They had a lot of shots, but a lot of them were longer shots. Our keeper is pretty good with those.”
Marianna Nuzzo had 14 saves for Caesar Rodney (2-1) while Abigail Boudart stopped four shots for Padua.
Padua 2, Caesar Rodney 0
Caesar Rodney 0 0 – 0
Padua 0 2 – 2
First half – no scoring
Second half – Ryjewski (Scully), P, 52:00; Ryjewski (Mallon), P, 75:00.
Shots – CR 4, P 16.
Corner kicks – CR 0, P 4.
Saves – CR 14 (Nuzzo), P 4 (Boudart).