In a game with 19 fouls, it was fitting that the only goal of the city championship Friday between Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University came on a penalty kick.
Less than eight minutes into the second half, freshman forward Kat Russell was running after the ball but was stopped by VCU goalkeeper Lauren Hardison. Spider senior forward Jessie Wolfe, backing up Russell, also fell down in the goal box, but officials called Hardison's foul against Russell.
Senior midfielder Sarah Hilt took the penalty kick and scored, giving the Spiders a 1-0 victory and a 2-0 record this season. Hilt had taken two shots and back-to-back corner kicks during the first half, but they all soared wide of the goal.
Russell's and Hilt's shots on that play were the only two of the second half for both teams. The Spiders shot more efficiently in the second half compared to the first half, when the team had an 8-3 shot advantage but failed to score.
"I screamed at them [at halftime]," Albright said. "VCU is a hardworking, tough team. They're happy to be 0-0 and I'm not."
The game was evenly played throughout most of the second half, but whenever the Rams closed in on the goal, there was a Spider to stop them. A key stop in front of the goal with about two minutes remaining allowed the Spiders to keep their lead.
"Our defense is absolutely smothering," Albright said. "Our team defense is really good -- that's our identity right now."
Albright's frequent second-half substitutions also proved to be a game-changing move. He said junior midfielder Kristin Runey's play in particular gave the team the energy it needed to finish the physical game with a win.
With its second home game of the season, the Spiders again beat a team that it had lost to last season. Last year, Richmond was at the losing end of a 1-0 game at VCU, but the two wins have provided some noticeable confidence to the team as it heads to Longwood University for its first road game of the season, set for 7 p.m. Sunday.
And although a senior's goal decided the game, the Spiders also benefited from the continued strong play of their freshmen, with contributions from forwards Russell, Bridget Kinealy and Emily Dale; midfielder Kris Lescalleet; defender Sarah Scheurich; and goalkeeper Andrea Young.
"They're adjusting to college soccer and for three or four of them it's been very smooth," Albright said. "They came with the idea they wanted to be part of change. I'm really proud of them."
Contact staff writer Barrett Neale at email@example.com
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