By Rick Henneman
The Youngstown State University soccer team (3-1) entered Friday night’s match against Fort Wayne (0-3) looking to match the best start to a season in program history. Fort Wayne started the match in the midst of a three-match losing streak. YSU lost the last meeting against the Mastodons 4-3 in 2016.
The Penguins began the first half in the now familiar 3-5-2 formation. YSU started on the front foot and had the first corner of the match in the third minute.
YSU had the first goal scoring opportunity in the tenth minute when senior Courtney Lavin’s shot sailed just wide of the post.
Fort Wayne had its first chance in the 19th minute when Hannah Kroger took a shot on goal from just inside the penalty box. A diving save from Kylee Moffett kept the Mastodons off the score sheet.
The Penguins’ leading goal scorer Kyler Lum was brought into the match in the 25th minute. She found herself in front of the goal in the 33rd minute but her shot was blocked behind for a corner to keep the score at 0-0 going into halftime.
The Penguins put the pressure on once more in the 58th minute as Meghan Wallace took a strike from point blank range that was saved by Haley Lydon.
The Mastodons took control for the next 10 minutes and pinned YSU deep into its half of the field. Solid defending from senior Sophie McFarland kept the Fort Wayne attack at bay.
“I’ve never been a fast player so my understanding of the game has always been by using my body,” McFarland said about the physicality of the match. “Getting in between a fast player is my biggest advantage so when another team is physical, it is a good thing for me.”
YSU broke the deadlock as a mistake from a Fort Wayne defender led to a pass that found the feet of Lavin who slotted the ball into the back of the net. The goal was the first of Lavin’s career at YSU. The score was 1-0 after the 80th minute.
“I just wanted to be ready if the ball came to me,” Lavin said about her first career goal. “It feels so great and I’ve really wanted to score forever. I’m really glad I could get one in before I graduate.”
The Mastodons pushed everyone forward after the goal and repeatedly launched crosses into the YSU box but the Penguin defense held strong.
YSU won the match 1-0 to increase its winning streak to four matches for the second time in program history.
“We just take one game at a time,” YSU head coach Fabio Boateng said after the win. “I didn’t even know about the history. Now that this game is over we are going to relax, look at the video and get ready for Buffalo.”
Unfortunately for YSU (4-2), Buffalo was ready to go from the start. Buffalo outshot YSU 16-11, outsaved YSU 6-5 and eventually beat the Penguins 5-0. That was Buffalo’s first win of the year.
“I think this has been about different personnel,” Boateng said. “We also switched our formation from last year. With the people we have, we thought that switching the formation would help a lot.”
Boateng also said that changing formation was a wild idea, but more a necessary change.
YSU has already surpassed last season’s win total of three with its fourth win against Fort Wayne.
The Penguins will then take a trip to Michigan to face both Eastern Michigan University and Western Michigan University next weekend before finishing off the four match road trip at Wright State University on Sept. 15.