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Rough Riders Defeated By Virginia Beach Piranhas

 The Long Island Rough Riders Women lost their last home game of the season 2-0 to the Virginia Beach Piranhas. Trailing seven points behind a playoff spot with two games remaining, they are now officially out of the hunt for another National Championship.

In the extreme heat at Cy Donnelly Stadium, both teams sought their opportunities early in the game. Three minutes into the game, W-League top scorer Shan Jones beat Marissa Mertens and Gabby Charno just outside the penalty box and had to be stopped by a courageously diving Rough Riders goalie Diana Poulin. The home team answered with a double chance in the fifth and seventh minute: Stephanie Colon’s header after a Dianna Marinaro cross could not threaten the Piranhas’ goal as it went wide. Deanna Murino finished a quick Rough Riders combination play with a strong shot but also missed the net.

Shortly after, a rare event occurred twice within five minutes: Piranhas forward Ashley Braam tested the woodwork when she fired a shot from 25 yards out, only to hit the right post. From the exact same position, Amanda Epstein copied her on the other end of the field, also hitting the right post.  Epstein had the next huge scoring opportunity when she was sent on the way by Amanda Ferranti. She dribbled around Piranhas goalkeeper Lauren Vetock but her shot was headed away on the line by Cheyenne Trevino.

At 26 minutes, Ferranti came close to getting on the scoreboard. After her breakaway on the right flank, she took a shot from a tight angle but Trevino was able to deflect the ball against the crossbar.

While the Rough Riders were unsuccessful to convert their excellent opportunities, the Piranhas showed no mercy. Jones created some space for fellow forward Braam who needed only one touch to put the ball past Poulin into the left corner of the net. The 1-0 deficit for the Rough Riders remained going into half time because Jones’ attempt went just a little wide when she aimed for the left corner at 45 minutes.

The Piranhas brought a fresh forward, replacing Braam with Nkese Udoh who made her impact in the second half. She recorded two early shots at 55 and 58 minutes, but Poulin was there to save them both. Rachel Hoffman had the Rough Riders’ best chance of the second half in the 63rd minute: Sent on a breakaway by Epstein, she was narrowly beaten to a ball by Piranhas defender Melanie Adams-Cobb at the top of the penalty box.

As both teams were struggling to find their legs in the extreme Long Island heat, the second half went by rather uneventful. Only once more Udoh was able to break through on her right side of the field, but this was enough to decide the game. Her precise cross found Taylor Mertz on the far post who headed the ball away to secure the Piranhas’ eighth win of the season.

“Given the circumstances, we played very well and were unlucky not to take the lead earlier in the game”, says head coach Steve Cadet. “With six starters missing today and only three field players on the bench, we were not able to bring enough fresh legs to the game in the second half.”

With this result, the Rough Riders remain in third place of the Northeastern Conference with 15 points and will not be able to claim a playoff spot this season. The Piranhas solidified their first place with now 25 points and clinched a playoff spot.