Women's Soccer

Taylor Bennett has strong performance in Syracuse women’s soccer’s win over Pitt

Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

Taylor Bennett rises for a header on Sunday. She scored the decisive goal in Syracuse's 1-0 win over Pittsburgh.

Taylor Bennett was all that stood between Pittsburgh forward Christiana Davey and the net. She was the last defender Davey had to beat to equalize the game in the 71st minute.

The two freshmen paused and stared for a split-second. Then, Davey shifted the ball right and propelled it forward. Bennett instantly pivoted to her left, muscled Davey off the ball, and cleared it to forward Bel Van Noorden.

Van Noorden sprinted toward the net. But once again, Bennett bodied her off and booted the ball out of play.

Bennett had saved the Orange once again. But this time, pain draped over her face and she held her right leg. The whistle blew for a substitution and she limped off the field.

“Just watching her move she didn’t look comfortable so we made the change,” Syracuse head coach Phil Wheddon said.

The injury ended a remarkable defensive performance from Bennett in Syracuse’s (8-5-3, 1-4-2) 1-0 victory over Pittsburgh (2-12-1, 1-6-0) on Sunday at SU Soccer Stadium. She thwarted several crucial offensive chances and made several clears that allowed the Orange to hold on. But she also contributed on the offensive end, where her free kick was the game’s decisive goal.

Before Bennett appeared to show signs of injury, she was SU’s designated free-kick taker. In the 25th minute, Maddie Iozzi fired a long shot that deflected off of a Panthers player’s hand, giving SU a free-kick opportunity.

On Aug. 28 against Albany, Bennett rocketed in a free kick from 35 yards out. Now the crowd fell into silence, anticipating the freshman would put the shot on net. Bennett slowly stepped up and blasted the ball over Pittsburgh’s wall toward the top left corner of the net. Goalkeeper Taylor Francis thrusted her right hand out but the bullet of a shot sailed into the net.

“From the angle that we had, it could have been the goal of the season,” Wheddon said.

“She kicks the ball harder than anyone I’ve ever played with,” junior defender Jessica Vigna said. “With her power, there’s a high percentage it’ll be on frame.”

The goal was the second of Bennett’s career. Both came on free kicks from a long distance.

Bennett was unavailable to the media after the game as she hurried to a doctor for an observation on her leg. A trainer wrapped Bennett’s leg with ice after she was subbed off. After the game, Bennett had taken the ice off.

Vigna said Bennett complained about a pain in her right leg and asked Vigna to take her free kicks late in the first half.

“I honestly don’t think it’s a major thing at all,” Vigna said. “She was able to play through it so she’ll take precautions for next week.”

In the 12th minute, a Pittsburgh forward had a one-on-one opportunity on net with goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan. Bennett trailed behind by a sizeable amount. But as the player laid her cleat toward the ball, Bennett slid toward the ball and knocked it out of play without committing a foul.

On a Pittsburgh counterattack before the end of the first half, Vigna screamed at Bennett to match up with her assignment quickly. The Panthers played a formation with only two forwards. Vigna said the pregame strategy was for her and Bennett to always pick up a forward on each in order to create a quick counter attack.

“Since we outnumbered them, we just tried to steal it and go out wide as quickly as possible,” Vigna said. “That’s how us defenders helped out on the attack.”

The leg injury didn’t appear to prevent Bennett from making several sliding plays on defense.

In the 34th minute, Vigna misdirected a pass intended for Bennett that rolled toward the sideline. Bennett dashed toward the ball and lunged her leg out. The ball curved into play, preventing an Orange turnover in its territory.

“Taylor gave everything she could on the field,” Wheddon said. “She was remarkably aggressive and I’m really happy for her.”


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