FAIRMONT – In the grand scheme of the season, Sunday afternoon was just a minor setback for Fairmont State women’s soccer. That doesn’t make it sting any less.
The Falcons hosted Mountain East Conference opponent and defending league champion West Virginia Wesleyan at Duvall-Rosier Field in a physical defensive battle between two teams that entered having allowed just 10 combined goals on the season. The Lady Falcons would give up just five shots total – with only two on goal – but that would be enough for Wesleyan’s Hailey Ramirez to find the back of the net to earn her team a 1-0 victory.
“We’ve worked all season and we’ve pushed through every battle. We came in on a bit of a high today because we’re sitting at the top of the conference, and we thought we could win this game. It’s just unlucky that things went the way they did,” said junior defender Kellie Norris.
“We knew it was going to be a defensive battle, and it was going to be one of those games where one goal in either favor could likely win it. Unfortunately, that fell to them and not us,” said Fairmont head coach Brandon Heembrock.
The game marks the first conference loss for the Falcons (5-3-1, 4-1-1) this season, though they still remain undefeated in divisional play and sit first in the MEC North. Norris hopes the loss will serve as a reminder to herself and her teammates throughout the year that they need to be on top of their game to continue the success they’ve found early.
“We have to take it and go forward with it. We can use this as motivation to beat those other teams in the South division and keep this on track. Hopefully we can carry that on the entire season, because we know we can do better than what we did today,” she said.
Wesleyan (4-4-0, 3-2-0) found their break against one of the league’s top defenses in the 54th minute of play, as the Bobcats earned a free kick. The long shot was on target and would bounce into Fairmont freshman goalkeeper Taylor Kennedy’s hands, but slipped away before she could secure control. The ball would land near Wesleyan defender Ellie Hill, who made a short pass to Ramirez to convert the goal.
“We gave away that free kick, and I’d count on Taylor every day to come up and catch that clean. It was just one of those times that it bounced the wrong way when she went to catch it, and they did a good job following it up. The nine minutes prior to that they kept the ball on their end, and they got that one chance and it went in,” Heembrock said.
The Falcons would attempt to retaliate, with Norris placing a shot in the lower right corner of the net off an Ella Wilson corner kick, but the officials would call a controversial handball that would take the goal off the board.
It was an otherwise slow day for the Falcons offensively, as they managed just four shots in total and struggled to move the ball through the Wesleyan midfield for the majority of the afternoon.
“They did a great job through the middle of the field. We knew coming in, this was going to be the most athletic team we faced, and we needed to improve our movement off the ball. It was difficult for our midfielders to be asked to hold the ball down for five, six, seven seconds at times,” Heembrock said.