by Alan Babbitt
After Dalton's shot caromed off the keeper, Cole pounced on the rebound and buried it the opposite corner of the net. It was the one goal the Hope College women's soccer team needed for a 1-0 victory against Bridgewater College (Virginia) in Friday's NCAA Division III Tournament opener.
Cole's first goal of the season stood up as the 18th-ranked Flying Dutch recorded their 12th shutout of the season and advanced to the Saturday, November 10 second-round game against host Otterbein University. The match begins at 7 p.m.
Cole, a sophomore from St. Paul, Minnesota (Eastview HS), humbly deferred credit for the decisive goal with 4 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the first half.
"I give all the credit to Rylie Dalton," Cole said. "I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
Hope, Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association regular-season champions, improved to 15-2-2 on the season after winning a first-round game for the second consecutive season.
Cole, pictured, is the 13th different Hope player to record a goal this season.
The assist was the third of the season for Dalton, the senior from Rockford, Michigan (Rockford) and MIAA Most Valuable Player.
"Historically, we've had a dominant scorer, but right now we're spread out," head coach Leigh Sears said. "We never know where it's coming from and when it's coming, so to get it in the first half was really big for us."
Despite blustery and cold conditions, Hope's defense rose to the occasion and shut out an opponent who came into postseason play with 61 goals scored.
Bridgewater (15-4-2) only failed to score a goal in three other matches this season.
"We knew they were going to be small. We knew they were going they were going to be fast. We knew they were going to be dangerous," Sears said. "I think our defense played extraordinary today."
Hope yielded one shot to the Old Dominion Athletic Conference co-champions.
A backline of seniors Eliza Beird of Holland, Michigan (Black River), Morgan Buursma of Grandville, Michigan (Calvin Christian), Lindsay Kooy of Metamora, Michigan (Flint Powers Catholic), and Kristen Marsman of Holland, Michigan (Holland Christian) met nearly every Bridgewater advance. They calmly and efficiently cleared the ball and generated a counterattack.
"We knew they were going to have to cover each other and talk a lot," Buursma said. "I think it did help that we have a pretty big defensive line, tall-wise. Everyone played really hard and confident."
Cole said the Flying Dutch feed off their stingy defense.
"Them winning those 50-50 balls put us in a better spot," Cole said. "To receive those sharp passes and be able to connect that way, we can connect and go."
Watch post-match press conference below