In the team’s first preseason game of 2018, the Washington Spirit, missing their numerous national team players, settled for a 1-1 tie against the University of North Carolina this past Saturday night. With the international window ending just two days before the game, those absences were not a surprise. Bridgette Andrzejewski scored for the Tar Heels midway through the second half, before Spirit draft pick Mallory Eubanks netted a late equalizer.
Washington Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra started Aubrey Bledsoe in goal, but she, DiDi Haracic and Kelsey Wys all got 30 minutes over the course of the game. Eubanks started in the center forward spot, but sometimes moved to the wing as Havana Solaun had a lot of freedom to move around.
Current sophomore Bridgette Andrzejewski, a Maryland native, excelled for UNC and was able to launch a couple potent counter attacks from UNC’s right flank. One shot midway through the first half was narrowly tipped over the crossbar. On the other side, Meggie Dougherty Howard did a solid job at right back and kept that side fairly quiet.
“We’re just training [Dougherty Howard] there as an emergency [option] or in a case where we need to get her on the field in that wide defender role,” Gabarra said after the game.
While the Spirit had most of the possession and played in a pretty aggressive shape, they didn’t wind up with many chances. Joanna Lohman, making her first appearance since tearing her ACL in last year’s regular season opener, had some good opportunities, often as a result of switching the ball across from the left flank. Overall though, the Spirit didn’t force many saves, and were pushed out wide regularly.
Some of that is to be expected, as the Spirit have not had opportunities to play with full-strength 11v11 lineups due to their international absentees. It’s something they’ll be looking to improve on in next Saturday’s game against North Carolina Courage.
Still, in the second half that problem seemed to get a bit worse and was compounded by a newfound hesitation in the box. Cali Farquharson had a good shoot tipped over the crossbar but Lohman’s exit seemed to take some sting out of Washington’s attack. Lohman exited at halftime and was replaced by Maddie Huster.
UNC scored just past the hour mark. UNC served a corner to the goalmouth and Andrzejewski finished it from close range to put UNC up 1-0. Gabarra noted after the game that the Spirit “haven’t done anything on set plays” at this point in the preseason.
Washington was pretty quiet up top for a lot of the second half except for a shot from Caprice Dydasco from distance that went just over the crossbar. Estefania Banini managed a few shots off the dribble, but the Spirit were not able to create particularly dangerous chances for long stretches of play.
Eubanks equalized with two minutes remaining. As the Spirit pressed high, UNC lost the ball just outside of the box and the Mississippi State product wasted no time, firing before the goalkeeper could recover back to her line to give Washington the draw.
Next weekend the Spirit play in Richmond against the North Carolina Courage.