STILLWATER — Goalkeeper was one of the few question marks in the Cowgirls’ senior-heavy lineup, and Colin Carmichael called upon a true freshman to fill the void.
Evie Vitali made four saves in the Cowgirls 2-0 season-opening win Thursday at Neal Patterson Stadium. When speaking with the media Tuesday, Carmichael said there was a possibility the Cowgirls used all three of the keepers on their roster, but it was all Vitali. And she made the most of her opportunity.
“We went with Evie because I thought she trained really well, Tuesday, Wednesday to be quite honest,” Carmichael said. “We weren’t sure up until Wednesday. So, we gave Evie the nod, and she stepped up. She handled the routine stuff that she had to and made a couple of nice plays, as well, to keep them off the score line. Really proud to Evie especially in an environment like this, big crowd, first collegiate game. The kid was great so she deserves a ton of credit.”
Carmichael said they went into the game on a half-by-half basis with the goalkeepers, but said Vitali earned the second half with her play in the first. Then Carmichael said Vitali’s play in the second half earned her the start for Sunday’s match against Ptt.
With 20 minutes to play and defending a 1-0 lead, Vitali made a sliding stop against UTSA’s Isa Hernandez, but Hernandez was able to regather the ball with Vitali out of her net. Hernandez put another shot on goal, but sophomore defender Kionna Simon covered for her keeper and deflected the ball away. Vitali’s save was one of three she made in the second half.
Both of the Cowgirls’ goals came after corner kicks.
In the 29th minute, Kim Rodriguez sent a ball into the box, and Ally Jackson was able to get her head to it to put it in the back of the net. It was just Jackson’s second career goal, as she is a defender.
“It just meant a lot to me,” Jackson said. “We practice that a lot in practice. Just to be able to get the first goal of the season was really cool.”
After nearly an entire half of defending, OSU had another corner in the 77th minute. The ball pinballed around on the edge of the 6-yard box before Gabriella Coleman was able to poke it past the UTSA goalkeeper. It was her 19th goal as a Cowgirl.
The Cowgirls were without regular starters Olyvia Dowell and Charme Morgan. Dowell tied for a team-lead in goals last season with 12, and Morgan, a fifth-year defender, has played in 81 games during her OSU career. Dowell is out because of COVID protocol, Carmichael said. Morgan was serving a one-game suspension after being shown a red card in the Cowgirls’ NCAA Tournament loss at the end of last season.
“Overall, clearly happy to win the game,” Carmichael said. “Just told the kids you never apologize for winning because there’ll be days that we play very well and don’t win. I’m always happy to win, really hard fought game. UTSA, as we knew, would be very competitive and tough to play against, and they were. To their great credit they disrupted us and took us out of what we wanted to do. From our perspective, we can’t allow that to happen, and we have to be able to play when a team has physical and kind of out-hustles us a little bit. We have to do a better job of maintaining our composure and playing the way we want to play.”
The Cowgirls host Pitt at 11 a.m. Sunday at Neal Patterson Stadium.
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