The Dayton Dutch Lions women put their undefeated record on the line against the Columbus Eagles on Saturday night at DOC Stadium in West Carrollton, Ohio. A pair of goals from Rose Lavelle and another from Meghan Blank were more than enough offense as the Lady Lions defense kept a clean sheet. The 3-0 victory preserved a perfect record and kept Dayton atop the WPSL Valley Conference standings.
“I’ll take the victory. I’m delighted with the second half performance,” said Dutch Lions Head Coach Ian Richardson.
“The first half performance, the girls were let to know in no uncertain terms that it was an unacceptable level from them. They came out in the second half and played to my expectations of what they’re capable of doing. It showed, the difference between the second half and the first half. The second half was very comfortable.”
Indeed, Dayton appeared to have a bit of an edge in the first half, but the Eagles were very much in the contest. It looked as if the teams would enter the intermission deadlocked at 0-0, but in the 39th minute Rose Lavelle grabbed the lead for the home side.
The ball was chipped into the box for Lavelle, but Columbus goalkeeper Shannon Flower came off her line to disrupt the play. When Flower couldn’t secure possession, the ball trickled behind the Eagles’ back line, where Lavelle was waiting to score on an open net.
“To be fair to Columbus, they showed up with a very good game plan. They were rotating. The forward was dropping in. One of the midfielders was going beyond. Our players didn’t do a good enough job picking up on that the first half, or stepping on their outside attacking players,” said Richardson. “We addressed it at halftime, and second half I think they maybe got it out of their own half once or twice, which was nice to see.”
Dayton doubled its efforts in the second half, stepping up defensive pressure on the ball and its pressure on the opposing goalkeeper. Columbus simply could not maintain possession of the ball, and the Dutch Lions peppered the Eagles’ goal with shot after shot.
Flower and the woodwork did well to save most of Dayton’s opportunities, but the Dutch Lions finally doubled the lead in the 79th minute. Christine Rebus won possession near midfield and drove hard toward goal before finding Lavelle with a perfectly weighted through ball. Lavelle beat the goalkeeper with a low left-footed strike to the far post.
Meghan Blank provide the icing on the cake as the game neared its conclusion. Blank received the ball on the left flank and cut toward goal. She blasted a shot that Flowers couldn’t stop, despite getting a hand on it.
Richardson said, “Delighted with the opportunities we’re creating, not delighted yet with the conversion rate, and that’s what we keep talking to them about. The bigger picture is beyond the league. We’re not going to get away with getting 30 chances in those games and only taking 3, so we need to increase that.”
By “beyond the league”, Richardson is referring to the WPSL playoffs. With a perfect 4-0-0 record halfway through the regular season, it may be time for the Dutch Lions to begin thinking about getting ready for a postseason run.
“I wouldn’t be a good coach if I wasn’t conscious of beyond the league, but the reality for me is to make sure these girls stay concentrated on the next game, the next task at hand. That’s what we’ll look to do,” said Richardson. “When that occasion [the playoffs] hopefully arrives, we’ll be ready for it.”
Many fans of the Dutch Lions women’s team will remember that an undefeated run in the 2015 USL W-League ended abruptly at the end of the regular season, and Dayton missed out on the playoffs. Last year, though, Dayton’s schedule was stacked with the toughest opponents at the end.
That is not necessarily the case in 2016. The Dutch Lions have already played and beaten all of the WPSL Valley Conference foes at least once, with the exception of the Cincinnati Sirens, who Dayton has yet to face.
“Our next game is at home against Cincinnati. I know they come off a bad result, but previous to the poor result last night they were up there with us, and they’re still second in the league. Hopefully, when they come here we’re ready from the get-go,” said Richardson. “Then it’s a very difficult away trip to Saint Louis, and again hoping all the girls are ready to go there and deliver a good performance.”