By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
St. Bonaventure goalie Beth Moore’s quest for a clean sheet on Tuesday night came with a major threat in the early moments.
The sophomore from Akron, Ohio, who stepped into the starting role when senior Christina Sarokon was sidelined with a quad injury, was first tested in the 12th minute when University of Buffalo forward Carissima Cutrona booted a powerful shot on net. Moore leapt up and deftly sent the shot out of harm’s way, denying the defending Mid-American Conference (MAC) champions the chance to draw first blood.
“It was all adrenaline, I think,” Moore said. “You have a whole bunch of fans coming out at home for the first night game, a lot of support behind you, and it felt good to make a big save early.”
Moore followed up her stellar first-half save with a highlight play in crunch time when she dove backwards for and captured a tipped shot right before it was able to squeak past the goal line. The moment preserved her first career shutout, and she was supported by goals from senior forwards Abby Maiello and Lauren Hill as the Bonnies defeated the Bulls 2-0 for their first victory of the year (1-1-2).
For Moore, who has made 19 saves in the first four games, the shutout was a testament to Bona’s defense.
“We’ve done a good job keeping everything in front of us,” said Moore. “I think it’s kind of a relief off our backs that we got our first win and it came out as a clean sheet.
“We have a young back line, so we’ve been trying to figure out how to get together and stay together.”
Bona coach Steve Brdarski echoed Moore’s sentiments, with nothing but praise for his defense.
“I was proud of the back four,” Brdarski said. “I thought we stayed the course and stuck to the gameplan, which as a coach you need to win the game.
“As for Beth, I thought she played a tremendous game. The save at the end was almost Matrix-like in terms of being able to bend back and get that ball. She did awesome and really stepped up communicating with that back four.”
Conference play doesn’t start until October, but Moore’s 0.80 goals against average is fifth among Atlantic 10 goaltenders. Her play will also give her coach a lot to think about in the next few weeks, as senior keeper Christina Sarokon has been medically cleared by the team’s medical staff and will be back in the next week or so.
In American football this development might make for a quarterback controversy, but Moore was positive about Sarokon’s return.
“It’s good competition,” Moore said. “We push each other and we’ll have each other to work off of as we get into conference (play).”
Brdarski wasn’t tipping his hand as far as who will start when Sarokon is game ready, but he expressed delight in having two capable goaltenders going forward.
“Beth’s got some needed game experience; that’s the way it kind of worked itself out,” said the third-year Bona coach. “You love that part of it. I love the idea that I have a tough decision to make.
“We’re going to do what’s best for the team. Both of them are competitors, and they’re going to keep pushing each other in practices. We need to keep getting them training and keep getting them reps behind that back four. We’re super excited that we’re going to have two great goalkeepers for our future games.”
The stellar play of senior leaders Hill and Maiello has been well-documented, as the duo now has two goals each in the early going. But freshman forward Jessica Scruggs was also lauded by Brdarski for the work she put in off the bench in her first official appearance in brown and white.
“It’s hard to go 80-some minutes of not being in there, and suddenly you get thrown into the game and you say ‘look, we need those five or six minutes’,” Brdarski said. “She ran her butt off, and that effort that she put in was the effort we need.
“We need those players who are ready to do whatever they can to help the team win, whether it’s 90 minutes or six minutes, or simply seeing things on the sidelines and getting information.”
Scruggs, Moore and the rest of the Bona women will get their next chance to shine when they host the Akron Zips on Friday night at 7 p.m. It will be the first of the Bonnies’ two matches in the St. Bonaventure Alumni Classic at the Marra Athletic Complex, with the second taking place on Sunday against Cleveland State.