PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Castleton women's soccer team battled back through the sweltering heat to cut the deficit to one early in the second half, but that was as close as it could get as Plymouth State thwarted the Spartans' comeback and held on for a 2-1 victory Wednesday afternoon in non-conference action at Arold Field.
The loss halted Castleton's momentum as it fell to 4-4-1 on the season following just its second loss in its last six matches. Plymouth State ended a four-game losing streak to improve to 3-4 overall with the win.
With temperatures climbing to the low 90's before kickoff, both teams got off to a hot start with quick shots on each end inside the first three minutes of the contest. Rylee Nichols clanged a deep drive off the crossbar just 1:29 in before Kiley Baran sidestepped to her left and knocked away a bending shot by Noami Kramer at the 2:33 mark of the opening frame.
After a period of early momentum swings for both teams, Plymouth State got on the board in the 17th minute off the foot of Mallory Lloyd. Baran was unable to corral a loose ball on the right side, where Lloyd found space and forced a low shot to the back of the net to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
The Panthers doubled their lead in the 36th minute off a Spartan miscue in the defensive zone. After a failed clearing attempt, Keegan Burch took possession and lofted a through ball to Megan Toman, who sent a low shot past Baran and inside the right post. Megan O'Shea checked off a shot on goal late for Castleton, but the Spartans trailed, 2-0, after 45 minutes.
After a back-and-forth start to the second half, Castleton finally broke into the scoring column in the 61st minute. Plymouth State keeper Jenna Parsons raced out to gather a loose ball near the top of the box, but Nichols beat her to it and deposited the ball into the back of the net to make the score 2-1 with just under 30 minutes left in regulation.
Searching for the equalizer late in the match, Castleton was unable to create any big chances as Plymouth State controlled possession for the majority of the final stretch. Nichols did break free behind the defense near the 70-minute mark, but a long through pass sailed too far and beat Nichols to the goal line. Moments later, Makenzi Bellando found space on the right side near midfield, but an outlet pass was too strong as Plymouth State took over possession. That proved to be the final chance for either squad as the Panthers held on for the 2-1 victory.
Nichols led the Spartans with two shots on goal, while Bellando and O'Shea each tacked on one. Baran made six saves but fell to 4-2 in goal following the loss. Parsons finished with three saves to earn the win for Plymouth State.
Plymouth State held a 13-8 advantage in shots, including 8-4 on goal. The Panthers edged the Spartans in corner kicks, 5-2, while committing 10 fouls to the Spartans' 14.
Castleton will return to action Saturday when it hosts Colby-Sawyer in a pivotal North Atlantic Conference matchup at 3:30 p.m. at Spartan Stadium.
Photo Credit: Ken Sanders.