Photo by Dennis Schneidler
New Jersey Franchise Earns Second Straight Win of the Preseason
West Windsor, N.J. (Saturday, March 19, 2015) – Yet another snowstorm hit the Northeast on Friday, but New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC did not let it stop them from playing the second match of their 2015 Preview Series Presented by Meridian Health on Saturday. The latest on the docket was a pairing with the University of North Carolina at Mercer County Community College, where both teams battled for a full 90 minutes before a final result of 1-0 was hung in favor of Sky Blue FC.
“North Carolina came in here and really pressed us, and that is what we wanted. We want to learn how to solve that pressure,” said Jim Gabarra, Sky Blue FC Technical Director & Head Coach. “There were times in the first half that we really struggled with it, but that is why you play preseason games, to figure out the answers to those questions. Overall, I felt that it was a good performance. Obviously, there were some breakdowns, but that is going to happen in the preseason when players still have some unfamiliarity with each other.”
Sky Blue FC was able to get onto the scoreboard early in this outing, with the lone goal of the match coming in the 6th minute. On the scoring play, forward Maya Hayes was able to work her way down the left flank with the ball at her feet before turning and sending distribution to the center of the field. There awaiting the feed was midfielder Katy Freels, who took one touch and turned on a hard left-footed shot towards the frame. Her strike took a fortunate deflection off a defender that froze Tar Heel goalkeeper Lindsey Harris, giving host Sky Blue FC a 1-0 advantage.
The two sides exchanged scoring chances in the 34th minute, with Danish striker Nadia Nadim first finding space on her offensive end of the field. Playing in her first match of the preseason, Nadim fired a hard shot that was just beyond the right post. Going the other way, North Carolina midfielder Cameron Castleberry found an opening of her own, only to see her attempt wide to the left of the frame.
A rapid pace continued throughout the match as both teams continued to increase their intensity, and Sky Blue FC nearly got an insurance goal in the 63rd minute. On the series, midfielder Sarah Killion split the center of the field before dealing a ball in space to Theresa Diederich on the left flank. From the corner, Diederich then shook two defenders and headed towards the penalty area to hook up Killion with her back to the goal. She then made a run to the top of the circle, where Killion placed a ball in front of her. Diederich then stepped toward the feed and hammered a hard shot that just missed the left post.
North Carolina nearly equalized this match in the final minutes, with forward Sarah Ashley Firstenberg able to get off a clean shot from the left side of the penalty area that was just off the mark. However, a deflection gave the Tar Heels once last chance with an ensuing corner, but the Sky Blue FC defense was able to clear it away to take home a well-deserved 1-0 victory.
“It was a good game. They are a great opponent,” said Sky Blue FC captain Brittany Cameron, who recorded the shutout in goal. “We are still trying to figure out some things, positionally and tactically, in what we are doing, so this was a great test for us. I think we did fairly well. We learned that there is still work to be done, but we took some good positives away from this game as a team and as a unit.”
Sky Blue FC indeed left this contest with many positives to take home, and one that should be mentioned is the promise shown by the versatile Shade Pratt in her first appearance of the preseason. A track star finishing up her senior year at the University of Maryland, Pratt displayed exceptional speed on numerous occasions, truly playing the length of the field from offense to defense. Along with fellow selections Killion, defender Kristin Grubka and midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta, Sky Blue FC fans have an awful lot to look forward to when it comes to the team’s latest draft class.
Sky Blue FC will now head to the In the Net Sports Complex in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, for its next preseason match, playing Penn State University on Wednesday evening at 8:00 p.m. The final game of the 2015 Preview Series Presented by Meridian Health will take place next Sunday at Toms River North High School when the team plays Rutgers University at 7:00 p.m.
Sky Blue FC will open the NWSL regular season on the road when it travels to FC Kansas City on Sunday, April 12th. The team will play its home opener at Yurcak Field (Rutgers, Piscataway) on Saturday, April 18th, at 7:00 p.m., and tickets for that match are on sale now. Season tickets are also available (10 home matches), with packages starting as low as $120. Make sure you catch all of the world class NWSL action this season at Yurcak Field by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849)!
Sky Blue FC vs. University of North Carolina
March 21, 2015 – Mercer County Community College
North Carolina: 0-0-0
Sky Blue FC 1-0-1
SBFC 6 K.Freels (M.Hayes)
SBFC – B.Cameron, M.Morris, S.Pratt, L.Cutshall, K.Grubka, S.Killion, K.Freels, N.Stanton (J.Grubb-75), M.Hayes, N.Nadim (T.Diederich-46), G.Wagner (M.Waldus-38)
Substitutes Not Used: A.Bledsoe, S.Gordon, S.Scholz, M.Huseini
UNC – L.Harris (B.Heaberlin-46), M.Worth, S.Firstenberg (A.Kingman-25), A.Munerlyn (E.Bruder-34), J.Boyles (J.Chiu-46), D.McFarlane, D.O’Halloran, M.Buckingham, C.Castleberry, P.Nielson, J.Scarpa
Substitutes Not Used: S.Wooten, A.Lust, A.Kimball,K.McCormack, A.Rooney, F.Reuland
UNC 61 P.Nielson (Dangerous Play)