Survive and advance. It is a term thrown around every time an NCAA championship or tournament comes around like it’s a football after Thanksgiving dinner. A term not often heard in the postseason: thrive and advance. But that is exactly what the NC State women’s soccer team did as it sunk Navy 3-0 in the first round of the NCAA Championship.
It took both teams a while to settle into the game as neither had a shot until the Wolfpack’s senior forward Maxine Blackwood put one wide in the 24th minute, but from there, it was smooth sailing for the Pack as it ended the match with a 17-1 lead in shots over the Midshipmen.
“We had to be patient,” said head coach Tim Santoro. “They had a lot of numbers behind the ball and they were very organized. They played hard so they made it tough for us in the first half. We adjusted our shape a little bit and played a lot faster and we were pretty good in the second half.”
The adjustment Santoro made entering the second half was shifting sophomore midfielder Toni Starova back into her natural position. Starova had been partnering redshirt sophomore Lulu Guttenberger at center back since sophomore Jenna Butler has been missing due to injury. Taking Starova’s place in the back line was sophomore Kursten von Klahr, who played very well next to Guttenberger.
“Just some things we saw, just adjust personnel a little bit plan,” Santoro said. “We played a few more people in higher positions, just to have more numbers in their half and the ball movement was faster and our movement was a little faster. They can come out of the halftime with a different attitude and a little more urgency.”
Guttenberger not only led the team defensively as it held Navy to just one shot, but she also led the team offensively with the defender grabbing a goal and an assist in the win. Both the goal and the assist came from set pieces with Guttenberger firing home a volley from her own blocked free kick in the 54th minute.
“The moment I hit it I knew it was not going over the wall,” Guttenberger said. “Which I was actually upset because it was the perfect position for a free kick. It fell right into my left foot and then honestly, a little bit lucky to obviously go in like it did.”
Guttenburger then got the assist on freshman forward Leyah Hall-Robinson’s goal 20 minutes later. The center back sent a corner high into the box and the ball fell right to Hall-Robinson who headed home from close range.
It took less than a minute after Hall-Robinson’s goal for sophomore forward Anna Toohey to make it three as the forward did well to cut in and curl it into the far post. While Hall-Robinson and Toohey have both had their moments to shine this season, such as Toohey’s winner in the last game of the regular season, both have been coming off the bench, for the most part, this season.
“We have a lot of players that can do stuff for us,” Santoro said. “They just don't always get on the field or maybe the points don't show up but we have a good team. We have a deep team and that's a sign of it when you can bring players in with limited moments here and there from game to game but then they produce. That just shows you the depth that we have.”
The Pack will be back in action next weekend as it will face Arkansas in the second round of the championship. Arkansas defeated its first round opponent, North Texas, 3-0 and outshot North Texas 26-1 in that game.
“Arkansas was a top-five team most of the year,” Santoro said. “They gave Carolina their only loss so they're having a great, great season. It'll be really tough especially playing out in, looks like it'll be out in Utah we will play them, so we'll wait until all the games are over and see what the schedule looks like and then we'll get to work on the video and start preparing.”