The Crimson White

Alabama escapes with gritty victory over Virginia Tech

Johnathan Anderson, Staff Writer

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Alabama escaped a gritty match against Virginia Tech with a 1-0 win that saw head coach Wes Hart’s side record back to back shutouts and improve to 2-2-1 on the year. A game with tackles aplenty, the Crimson Tide were forced to dig in defensively to withstand a flurry of attack from the Hokies. The Crimson Tide fought back, taking advantage of tight passing in the midfield to carve out chances on the counterattack.

“We needed the shutout,” sophomore forward Casey Wertz said. “In the early games, we tended to give away goals a bit easier than we wanted so I think that these two shutouts were important.”

The match was tightly contested in the early minutes with neither team able to find a foothold. Hart’s team took the field with more defensive intensity than last time out, opting to withhold the forwards and keep numbers behind the ball to withstand the offensive onslaught of Virginia Tech. The decision allowed the Hokies to put more and more numbers forward, pinning Alabama back into its own half and halting the Crimson Tide’s normally wide-open attack.

Despite the lack of time on the ball, Alabama did manage a handful of opportunities throughout the first half and was able to move forward and create opportunities on the counterattack. Taylor Morgan sent a looping ball into the box from the right side that was redirected into the back of the net by Virginia Tech, gifting the Crimson Tide the lone goal of the match in the 16th minute.

“Virginia Tech is a tough team,” Hart said. “We knew it was going to be a low scoring affair and I’m just proud of our crew for finding a way to get a goal, whether it’s an own goal, a bicycle kick, or a Kat Roger’s 35 yarder. They all count the same.”

Despite the scoring ending there, the match was far from over. The goal allowed the Crimson Tide to settle into the match for a stretch immediately following the goal. The uncertain passing and thoughtless mistakes that plagued Alabama throughout the first 15 minutes began to subside and the side began to build confidence. The center backs for Alabama got the green light to begin their lung-busting runs down the flanks once again. Though Virginia Tech began to build up its momentum once more, the Crimson Tide managed to hold on to the whistle and reach halftime with the one goal advantage.

The Hokies came out for the second half determined to grab the equalizer. The offensive firepower that the Crimson Tide were forced to endure in the first half was only magnified in the second as Virginia Tech began throwing bodies forward, overwhelming the Crimson Tide backline with immense pressure. The Hokies produced several quality chances, looking to respond in emphatic fashion. A towering header bobbled just past the Crimson Tide’s far post and a 30-yard blast just nicked the crossbar, well beyond the reach of Alabama’s outstretched keeper.

Hart seemed to have taken a few pages out of head football coach Nick Saban’s playbook, as Alabama was forced farther and farther back into its own half, more and more freshmen were brought onto the field, replacing key veteran players in the middle of the field such as Christina Maartensson and Taylor Morgan as well as center back Kayla Mouton.

The decision paid dividends. Space began to open up thanks to the fresh legs brought on and the Crimson Tide were able to build the ball out of the back very effectively, negating the high press of the Hokies that had troubled them for so long before.

“I think with Abby (Bivens) coming in and giving us fresh legs, it helped with all of the pressure that was on us,” Martin said.

As the second half wore on with both teams striving to be the next on the scoreboard, the tackles began to fly in. With each tackle, less and less of the ball was won and more of the bodies were caught. A few scuffles between the teams broke out in the 69th minute, resulting in a yellow card for freshman defender Abby Bivens.

Sophomore goalkeeper Alex Plavin was indispensable on the night. Her five saves came at pivotal moments in the game that provided the Crimson Tide backline the confidence it needed to weather the thunderous attack of the Hokies, allowing Alabama to hold on to secure the hard fought 1-0 victory.

Alabama’s backline held firm against the sustained pressure applied by Virginia Tech. Anchored in the back by sophomore defender Brynn Martin, Alabama held its shape well throughout the contest.

“We see other teams in the SEC getting 11, 12, 13 shutouts for the season and we want to strive to be that,” Martin said. “We don’t want to be a team that allows a lot of goals. We want to be known for our defense and for our shutouts so that’s a big goal of ours for the season.”

Alabama will retake the field on Sunday as it continues its seven game home stand against Rice. The Owls come into the contest 1-2 overall and face Samford on Friday before they take on the Crimson Tide.

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Alabama escapes with gritty victory over Virginia Tech