Padua traveled to Caravel on Thursday for a showdown between both of last season’s girls soccer state champions, and the Division I Pandas turned back the latest challenge on their schedule. In a physical battle on a chilly evening, Padua clamped down on the Division II Buccaneers and left with a 3-0 win.
Padua improved to 12-0 and still has not allowed a goal to a Delaware foe. The team’s schedule includes three wins over Virginia opponents, and the Pandas have defeated most of the top teams in Delaware, such as Caesar Rodney, Appoquinimink, Wilmington Charter and now Caravel.
“With the tournament coming around, we really have to make a big statement,” senior Megan Mallon said. “This game was big for us. We wanted to win. This was a big statement game for us.”
Against the Buccaneers, Mallon got the scoring started in the ninth minute off a corner kick. Her first attempt was rejected, but she connected on the rebound and found the net. She said she knew she had to finish when she got the opportunity.
Padua maintained control of the contest throughout, rarely allowing Caravel to mount an offensive foray. The Pandas took the 1-0 lead into the half but not for a lack of opportunities to extend the advantage. They forced numerous Buccaneers turnovers, maintained all the pressure and had several corner kicks. Caravel goalkeeper Sydney Keld made 14 saves in the game, keeping her team close.
Her best save occurred in the 53rd minute. A direct kick was deflected and was heading on net, but Keld threw out her left arm to knock the shot wide.
It didn’t take much longer, however, for Padua to double the lead. Sarah Brush lined up for a free kick in the 57th minute, and she connected for the 2-0 lead. Brush’s blast went through the Bucs’ wall; a defender slowed but did not stop the shot, and the ball changed direction and slowly rolled into the left side of the net.
“I didn’t intend for it to go on the ground like that. Basically, whenever you hit it as hard as possible, they’re not going to be able to defend it. It’s just going to ricochet somewhere. I got lucky,” Brush said. “It was going so slow. It was rolling at, like, two miles per hour. But I thought it was going in when I saw it go into the corner.”
Caravel’s best chance to score came in the 62nd minute. Karli Cauley boomed one from the right of Padua keeper Abigail Boudart and it was bending toward the net, but Boudart was able to tip it wide and over the end line. That turned out to be the Buccaneers’ lone shot on net.
The contest was physical in nature all night, but the contact picked up in the second half. A Caravel player was assessed a yellow card for a shove in the 55th minute. Players were colliding all night while chasing possession, and on a few occasions the girls took a minute to collect themselves before rising from the turf. A physical play by Feld led to Padua’s third and final goal in the 67th.
She and Padua’s Gabrielle Villermaux were chasing a loose ball in the 18-yard box when they came together. The referee whistled Feld for a foul inside the box, a call that drew criticism from the home sideline. The decision meant a penalty kick for Villermaux, who buried her chance.
“We always know Caravel is going to be physical, and we just had to play physical back. We played physical, but we played clean,” Brush said.
Mallon added that last season’s meeting with Caravel was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record, and the Pandas didn’t forget that.
“Last year we tied, and we really weren’t happy with that, and I think we really did improve today,” Mallon said. “We finished strong, and we didn’t leave any meat on the hook.”
The Pandas are off until Tuesday, when they travel to Archmere for a 3:45 p.m. start. The Auks are the only team, in addition to Padua, to defeat Caravel this season and are 8-0-1.
Caravel, which has just two seniors on its roster, lost for the first time since the double-overtime, opening-day defeat at Archmere. The 6-2-1 Buccaneers meet St. Elizabeth on Monday at 3:45 p.m. at Alapocas Run State Park.