There was tension in the air Thursday afternoon, as the Rockets traveled to Cochrane Field to take on their rival, the Bowling Green Falcons. The stakes were higher than just a regular season win, however, the Rockets needed a win to remain in contention to defend last year’s MAC championship title.
The Falcons were also looking for a win, hoping to dissuade a repeat of last year’s MAC championship game when the Rockets took the title with an overtime goal.
The game began with a dominant defensive showing by Toledo. This impressive early defensive effort, combined with an unfortunate injury on the Falcons seemed to put BG on their back foot.
The Rockets capitalized on what appeared to be a shaken Bowling Green by pressing the Falcon defense through a series of quick interceptions, pushing the ball deep into Falcon territory. The Falcons held on though, dutifully stumping the Toledo offense in their own 1/3 of the pitch.
The last-ditch defense of the Falcons couldn’t continue forever though. At around 38 minutes, the Rockets were finally able to make good on their scoring desires, with a well-placed cross from first-year midfielder Ashton Cassel finding the head of fourth-year captain Hannah Scafaria near the goal.
The goal by Scafaria put the Falcons in a bit of an unusual position, as they had only previously found themselves trailing during regulation for a grand total of two minutes across the whole season. Fueled by this knowledge, the Falcons retook the field, and almost immediately fired back with a spirited counter-attack resulting in one shot going off the post and a second going wide following that.
The Falcons weren’t done yet though, as they kept the pressure on the Rockets defense. Capitalizing on some poor UT passing, BG kept the ball on the Rockets’ side of the pitch yet were continually unable to find the back of the net. The Rockets fended off Bowling Green’s scoring attempts for the remainder of the first half, maintaining the lead of 1-0 going into halftime.
Bowling Green was amped up to start the second half, hungry to make up the points difference. The Falcons quickly took possession on the Rocket side of the pitch. Falcon defender Maureen Kennedy found herself in possession of the ball deep in Rocket territory. Working the ball up to the corner of the box, she laid in a deep cross to forward Sarah Allen, who was able to fire the ball past Rocket goalkeeper Madison Perrin to tie the game 1-1 with about 25 minutes left to play. This goal seemed to come at the opportune time for the Falcons, reinvigorating them for the remainder of the game.
The Rockets knew that in order to secure a tournament berth, a tie would not be good enough. Only a win could give these ladies the opportunity to defend the title they won against the Falcons just last season.
The goal by the Falcons had forced Toledo to play more aggressively for the remainder of the game. Despite this, the Rockets could not find any success in passing the ball beyond the BG midfield in the second half.
In fact, it seemed that this newfound aggression would prove to hurt the Rockets when Kennedy managed to get ahold of the ball beyond the Toledo defenders. Her drive came to an abrupt end when an overzealous defensive attempt by the Rockets resulted in a penalty kick for Kennedy.
Kennedy took aim and fired the ball right past UT goalkeeper Perrin to take the lead for Bowling Green with only eight minutes remaining. Despite a spirited attempt by Toledo, including two more shots, to remain in the game, eight minutes was simply not enough time to make the ground they lost.
Bowling Green won 2-1, ending the hopes of another MAC title, at least for this year.