Coming off an IAAM A Conference championship last season, but losing defender and Player of the Year Emily Roberts to graduation, Archbishop Spalding coach Ashly Kennedy put a heavy focus on organizing her defense in the preseason.
Three games in, that focus has already paid off.
Fifi Iluyomade scored in the first half, Asiah Manu scored in the second, and the Cavaliers posted their third straight shutout to start the season in a 2-0 victory at Severn.
“I was adamant about putting together a group of girls that understood our system and style of play,” Kennedy said. “Defense wins championships. We kept going over how we pressure, how we step, shift, drop and move, and then we also made sure to put the right personnel together. We have a lot of depth there.”
Archbishop Spalding (2-0-1) also has a lot of depth up top, and it showed throughout the first half. In the 10th minute Zoe Lape, who scored two goals in a win over Arundel over the weekend, was just high on a shot. Later in the half, Olivia Burkowski fired a laser shot right at Severn (1-2) goalkeeper Inde Lauer, a converted defender who made 16 saves. Three minutes later, Burkowski sent a cross over to Iluyomade, but her attempt was stopped by Lauer at the far post.
The Admirals made some noise offensively as well in the first half, with Michelle Money controlling runs from the middle, and Eileen Doherty and Mia Hilmer springing open on the wings and down the middle. Doherty took a pass from Danielle Drury and forced Savageau hard to her right on a stop in the 14th minute. Midway through the first half, Severn nearly got on the board when Doherty beat Savageau and shot the ball, only to have the Cavaliers’ defense stop it off the line. Hilmer came in on a follow-up attempt that was also snuffed out by the defense. Led by Savageau and veteran defender Abby Jeanneault, Archbishop Spalding has not been scored on in the season’s first 240 minutes.
“It is great to see that, after the past season, we are still strong and compete as a team, no matter what happens,” Savageau said. “It was a bit unusual without Emily;s calming presence at first, but Abby has stepped up as the leader.”
In the 30th minute, Money was high over the bar on an attempt, and Archbishop Spalding finally responded on the counter. Savageau sent the ball up while directing her chess pieces around, and Jess Zimmmerman gained possession of the ball before springing Iluyomade free in the box.
“Jess was dribbling down the field and I thought she was going to take it herself, but I realized I was open, so I gave her some space and moved away from my defender,” Iluyomade said. “I was open and I ran through.”
Iluyomade blasted the ball into the back of the net and the Cavaliers led, 1-0, at halftime. Severn immediately responded after the break.
“They came out and overmatched us and put us on our heels,” Kennedy said. “The biggest thing is to stay consistent and composed on the field. Our team, thus far, has been able to adapt.”
The Admirals tested Savageau in the opening two minutes of the second half, before Archbishop Spalding scored a second goal on a counter attack. Lauren Korsnick regained possession in Severn’s box and broke down two defenders before sending the ball over to Manu, who scored the team’s final goal for the second consecutive match.
“They did a really good job of finding players open in the middle of the field,” Severn coach Albert Oni said. “We have shown in our first three matches that we can be competitive with anybody, and I am ecstatic with our potential. We tend to get into 1-v-1 in certain situations, but when we play more team ball, we are stronger.”
Korsnick had another strong opportunity midway through the half, and Iluyomade and Lape both hit the pipe in the final five minutes as Archbishop Spalding had another strong showing overall.
“It has been good to see three different styles so far this season, testing our strengths, so we can see what we are able to do,” Savageau said.
Archbishop Spalding 2, Severn 0
Goals: AS — Iluyomade, Manu
Assists: AS — Zimmerman, Korsnick
Saves: AS – Savageau 5; SE – Lauer 16.
Half: AS, 1-0