The Mountaineers finally felt like the favorites this season when they took on the winless St. Louis Billikens on a damp, chilly and windy Saturday at Adcock Field. Despite never trailing, the Mountaineers had their hands full for the entire 70 minutes in what resulted in a 5-4 win.
App State started the scoring early, with forward Micaela Diedricks showcasing her wheels on a fast break just 18 seconds in to give the Apps the early 1-0 lead. The goal was her fourth of the year, good for second most on the team.
Sam Fuerstenberg added the second goal for the Apps, scoring off an assist from Rebecca McLean on a penalty corner play 17 minutes into the contest.
St. Louis struck back with Katie Moss scoring a goal off the assist from Maya Bentley with 12 minutes remaining in the first half and cut the deficit to one.
The Mountaineers top scoring threat, senior Caroline Phillips, restored the two-point lead with her team-leading seventh goal of the year. Phillips’ goal came during another penalty corner, with the assist from Taylor Cimbalist and Jordan Van Cleave.
The Billikens were able to reduce the deficit again, with Carly Kissinger scoring off an assist from Caitlin Gibson with under three minutes to play in the first half.
The second half began with the Mountaineers getting off to a strong start once again. Cimbalist and Abby Carls added goals in the first 20 minutes of the half to give Appalachian State a 5-2 lead with 15 minutes left. For Carls, it was the first goal of her sophomore midfielder career.
“It was so exciting! The ball actually went off my hand, not my stick, but it was great to score my first goal,” Carls said.
Despite the three goal advantage, it was all the Mountaineers could do to hold on in the end. St. Louis scored two goals in a 10 minute period that saw the Mountaineers struggle on defense.
“We got a little bit comfortable with our lead and playing style,” head coach Meghan Dawson said. “St. Louis just wanted it, they fought hard. We learned a lesson today, we can’t pay attention to what the scoreboard says and to just keep playing.”
The defining moment of the game came in the final seconds, as St. Louis had a one-on-one fast break opportunity against senior goalie Cristina Ceppi. Ceppi, in a show of heroics, made the diving stop to secure the win.
“I tried to stay up as long as possible to slow the play down,” Ceppi said. “I knew there was about five to 10 seconds left on the clock so I approached her and kept a good distance to keep her in front of me. She pulled to my right so I went down and I saw her cup the ball to the inside and I was able to stop it.”
With the win the Mountaineers improved to 3-8 on the year and started the two game homestand with a win.
The first time App State faced Davidson it was an exhibition game on the road, the second of head coach Meghan Dawson’s career. The result was forgettable, a 7-0 blowout which showed a lack of competitiveness from the Mountaineers.
The second meeting, Sunday’s home game, Senior Day for six Mountaineers, was a different story.
The team had grown, according to Dawson, and it had on all accounts, losing matches against top-10 teams in UNC and Wake Forest that were largely competitive.
The Mountaineers weren’t that surprised then when they shutout Davidson 2-0 in their most high profile win of the season.
“It’s all been a process, and playing the exhibition and the games against UNC and Wake Forest were to show us that we weren’t good enough yet,” Dawson said. “This season has been about improvement, and today proves that we have improved.”
The victory was hard fought, with multiple Mountaineers sustaining injuries. Four Apps also had to serve penalty time, with Hanna French and Van Cleave receiving green cards. Phillips and McLean received yellow cards for their penalties.
“Davidson is in state, it’s a battle,” Dawson said. “For us, Davidson is a really good team, and the penalties came from it being a more physical game then we are used to.”
Despite the injuries and penalties, the Mountaineers were able to overcome.
Davidson, 7-5 entering the game, was shut down by the Appalachian defense, managing only six shots on goal the entire contest.
The Apps were also held scoreless until the second half, when Cimbalist and Diedricks connected on back-to-back goals. Cimbalist scored the first off a long lead pass from Diedricks to put Appalachian State ahead at the 56-minute mark. Diedricks then scored on a left cross that was set up by Cimbalist to give the Mountaineers a 2-0 lead, and all the cushion they would need.
“We had a really good connection today,” Cimbalist said. “We’ve been working on it in practice. We got frustrated yesterday [against St. Louis] and today we finally connected.”
Diedricks said the production between the two was long overdue.
“Taylor and I have been trying to connect the entire season,” Diedricks said. “Today we decided we would finally do it and we did.”
The win was the team’s fourth of the year, and the first shutout since 2010. Appalachian State will return to action on Friday, when they travel to Farmville, Virginia to take on Longwood. The game will begin at 5 p.m.
Story by: Lee Sanderlin, Sports Reporter