East Conference play began Saturday with a well-played, entertaining draw between New England Mutiny (0-0-1) and Scorpions SC (0-0-1 UWS East). Scorpions SC took firm control of the game early on. Kristi Vierra began the scoring for the visitors in the 6th minute, and Meg Hughes followed one minute later with a goal of her own to double the advantage. Well into the second half, Scorpions SC remained on course for a convincing and impressive road win to begin their season, but New England had a response in store. With a similarly quick scoring burst, the hosts pulled themselves level. Hope Santaniello scored off an assist by Laura Gouvin in the 76th minute, and Melina Couzis equalized a minute later for the Mutiny to restore parity.
Doyle Stadium played host to a battle of two stout defenses Saturday night, with Worcester Smiles (1-0 UWS East) edging Long Island Rough Riders (0-1 UWS East) 1-0 to earn all three points. The only goal in this contest came early on, when Anna Bagley took a feed from Katie Bottis and chipped it over the Long Island keeper. Worcester ensured Bagley’s cheeky finish was enough thanks in large part to goalkeeper Jenna Park, who made five saves to start her season with a clean sheet and a victory.
Connecticut Fusion (1-0 UWS East) began the 2021 campaign with a dominant showing against UWS newcomers Albany Rush (0-1 UWS East) at Farmington Sports Arena. Connecticut Fusion took a 3-0 lead into the halftime break, then exploded for seven more goals after the interval to reach double figures on the day. Tiffany Weimer began her season with a hat trick, Roma McLaughlin scored twice, and Maegen Doyle, Chanel Johnson, Tori Sousa, Kacey Lawrence and Chloe Landers each found the back of the net once in the emphatic win.
A scoreless first half gave way to an exciting second frame in Rochester, where FC Buffalo (1-0 UWS East) began its UWS tenure with a 2-1 victory over Rochester Lancers (0-1 UWS East). Both defenses controlled the game until the 57th minute, when Danielle Vis placed a right-footed finish past the goalkeeper after an assist by Carissima Cutrona to give FC Buffalo the 1-0 lead. Claire Myers equalized with about 15 minutes remaining for Rochester Lancers from the penalty spot, seemingly salvaging a point for the hosts. But Kelsey Araujo restored FC Buffalo’s advantage in the 83rd minute, finishing off a 1-on-1 situation for what turned out to be the winning goal. A silver lining in the defeat for Rochester was the play of goalkeeper Saunj Baron, who made 15 saves — several of which were spectacular — to keep her side in the match.
There was plenty of drama at Avanti’s Dome, where MSC Peoria (1-0 UWS Midwest) earned a come-from-behind victory over Ladies Steel City FC (1-1 UWS Midwest) to begin its season. A cagey first half meant the two sides entered halftime in a 0-0 deadlock, but Ladies Steel City broke through not long after halftime as Katherine Kuntte converted on a penalty kick. MSC Peoria responded quickly, though. Caelyn Steffens equalized for the home side in the 61st minute, and Sarah Parker scored the winner in the 70th minute to claim all three points for the home side
Another closely contested matchup came out of the Midwest Conference, as Detroit City FC (1-0 UWS Midwest) claimed its first official UWS win over Muskegon Risers (0-2 UWS Midwest) by the score of 2-1. Detroit City got the scoring started early via Brooke Honeycutt, who cashed in a rebound off the post to put the home side ahead just before the half-hour mark. After the halftime interval, Muskegon leveled things up with a fantastic effort from Mary Mitchell, who scored into the top right corner from long range with an assist by Kiersen Korienek for the Risers’ first tally as UWS members. Detroit City responded with a bit of quality of its own, however. In the 52nd minute, Marlee Taylor scored a fantastic volley from outside the 18-yard box off an assist by Elisa Baeron. Detroit City’s defense handled things from there and didn’t allow a shot for the remainder of the game to close out the win.
A pair of late twists told the story at Corner Ballpark, where Corktown AFC (2-0 UWS Midwest) made another statement in its first UWS season with a crucial 2-1 win over Lansing United (0-2 UWS Midwest) in a key Midwest North tilt. Samantha Woods gave Corktown the lead late in the first half with help from an assist by Emma Hiscock, and for most of the second half it seemed like that would be enough for Corktown to grind out the win. But Lansing United responded in the 86th minute with an equalizer by Casey Conine that undid Corktown’s bid to defend its lead. Then, with less than two minutes on the clock, Corktown’s Abby Werthman scored the winner off a feed from Itala Gemelli, keeping the hosts perfect on the season and denying Lansing United’s comeback effort.
San Antonio Athenians (1-0 UWS Southwest) pulled ahead early and didn’t look back in their season-opening win over FC Austin Elite (0-1 UWS Southwest), beginning play in the UWS Southwest Conference. Natalie Hanson fired the Athenians ahead in the 17th minute, scoring a rebound in front of goal. Scorer then turned provider, as Hanson fed Amanda Smith six minutes later to double San Antonio’s advantage. The game quieted down from there, with the Athenians holding FC Austin Elite at bay for the full 90 minutes to start the season with a clean sheet. Allison Fahey finished things off with her goal in the 87th minute, with an assist from Channing Borden.
Side FC 92 (1-0 UWS Southwest) began its stay in UWS with a convincing 8-0 win over fellow debutant Alacranes Fort Worth (0-1 UWS Southwest), which included several outstanding individual performances. Sierra Beall began the scoring with an assist by Vanessa Fitch in the 20th minute. Joan Nakirya quickly doubled that lead in the 32nd minute with her first of four goals on the day. Fitch also lit up the stat sheet, compiling three assists before halftime and scoring a goal of her own in the 62nd minute. Hayley Ledford and Madeline Barone also found the back of the net for Side FC in a memorable win.