With the Jamestown Community College women's soccer team squaring off against perennial NJCAA Region 3 Division III contender Mohawk Valley CC, a squad that had defeated the Jayhawks in each of the past two season openers in convincing fashion, the odds were long that JCC, still working to get its many new pieces in place, would walk away from its first game of the 2012 season with a victory.
The odds were, in fact, too long to overcome.
Led by Mia DeGironimo, who bookended the first half with a tally less than five minutes into the game and then beat JCC goaltender Haley Sigular with 4:21 remaining, and Meghan Carlo, who took advantage of a second-half adjustment in strategy by the Jayhawks to score a pair of breakaway goals, visiting Mohawk Valley topped JCC, 4-1.
Above, Olivia Sinatra of Jamestown Community College moves past a Mohawk Valley CC defender during Saturday’s NJCAA Division 3 women’s soccer game. Below, JCC goaltender Haley Sigular makes a save on a shot by Mohawk Valley’s Mia DeGironimo. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Rob Tucker
Saturday's game marked the third straight season in which JCC has squared off with the Hawks, who last season reached the Region 3 finals, to start the season and, unfortunately for the Jayhawks' faithful, it marked the third straight season in which the hometown squad began the year with a loss.
"We knew this was a playoff-quality team," JCC coach Dana Shelters said, "and I thought there were some opening nerves because the girls knew that."
Taking advantage of those early nerves was Samantha Getman, an NJCAA All-American last season, who just 4:05 into the first half carried the ball into JCC territory and sent a centering pass to DeGironimo, herself an All-Conference first teamer, who snuck by the Jayhawks' defense and fired a shot into the lower corner past a diving Sigular.
DeGironimo struck again nearly 40 minutes later with what would prove to be the game-winning score when she managed to beat the Jayhawks' defense and maneuver around Sigular for a wide-open shot.
Both goals were due to some early-season communication issues amongst the JCC defense.
"The first goal was a bit of a lack of communication due to an injury we had to Kelsey Fish (a defender who was hurt before the season), so we had to move a couple of people around and sort through that a bit," Shelters said. "The second goal was just a terrible decision by our defense of which girl to (mark)."
Trailing by two in the second half and time running out, JCC was forced to leave its defense exposed in order to have a better shot at cutting the deficit. That opened things up for Carlo, however, who twice got a hold of long passes by teammates behind the Jamestown defense for easy scores to put the game from reach.
"We committed everything up front and left our defense," Shelters said. "And when (defenseman) Sydney (Wheeler) came out (for a break) we lost a little speed back there and our girls didn't cover for that. We have to make those adjustments and that's something we'll learn going forward."
Despite the loss, Shelters was pleased with his team's effort against one of the better teams in the region.
"We can't ever be happy with losing," he said, "but we have to take the positives and build from that. This team competes for a championship every season so this was a good statement from us right off the bat. We're not going to back down."
Among the positives were Sigular, who stopped 12 shots and who Shelters noted made some "tremendous saves," and Ashley Skelly, the JCC-Olean transfer who scored the lone goal for her new squad at the 79th minute with a header off a corner kick.
While the Jayhawks' chances were few and far between during the opening half, they did have some scoring opportunities late in the game as the Hawks dropped back to preserve the lead. Both Olivia Sinatra and Nicole Mahoney found themselves open in the Mohawk Valley zone but could only manage to send shots straight at goaltender Vanessa Jecko.
"We've got to take advantage of our opportunities," Shelters said. "You can't put the ball right on the keeper when you have (space) out in front."
JCC will be looking to pick up its first victory of the season on Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. when it takes on host Niagara County CC.
"I like the way we are developing," Shelters said. "Niagara is a team that we should be able to go at hard. They're going to have their hands full with us."