Falcons Bethea, Gardner team up to tie Cincinnati, 1-1

To defeat Cincinnati Thursday, Bowling Green State University women’s soccer knew they had to get past the Bearcats’ 5-foot-11 senior defender Ashley Barron.

Bring on BGSU 5-1 junior forward Lacee Bethea, who fired two shots at the Bearcat defense and had the game-tying assist leading to a goal by BGSU 5-4 freshman forward Brynn Gardner.

Bethea had to beat Barron, a two-time American Athletic Conference Defender of the Year, to get it done.

“I mean, I’m so used to going up against tall people and big girls,” Bethea said. “A name is a name, that doesn’t matter.

“I’m Lacee Bethea, so she’s going to have to go up against me, not me going up against her. So, I just gave it a show and did the best I could.”

Bethea stole the ball from a Bearcat midfielder, went up the left side and once near the left post, sent a cross in front of the goal, where Gardner was there to one-time her goal with 19:34 remaining.

Because of Gardner’s goal, the Falcons’ first score this season, the Bearcats and Falcons played to a 1-1 tie at Cochrane Soccer Stadium.

The Falcons improve to 0-1-1, while Cincinnati falls to 1-0-2, including a scoreless 0-0 tie against Michigan State, a team that beat the Falcons 2-0 Aug. 18.

The speedy Bethea said as she beat the Cincinnati defender and headed down the left sideline, she prepared for Barron’s presence, knowing it would be the final line of defense.

“I just beat the defender. That’s what I’m supposed to do as a forward,” Bethea said. “I was dribbling down and I knew I had cut off Ashley a little bit.

“I knew I had one more touch, and I saw Brynn right on the backside, and I thought, ‘I’ve just got to swat this across,’ and she picked it up nice and easy, too. She got it nice,” Bethea continued.

Gardner credited Bethea for making her first collegiate goal happen.

“Honestly it was all Lacee. All I had to do was tap it in and finish,” Gardner said. “It was about being there at the right time and timing it right, but we do that hundreds of times in practice, so it just takes repetition, and it was all just natural.”

BGSU coach Jimmy Walker was pleased with how Bethea managed her matchup with Barron, a Toledo native who played at Notre Dame Academy and was 10 inches taller than Bethea.

“That was brilliant. We had a chance in the first half when we hit the post as well,” Walker said. “But I’ve known Ashley — I used to coach her when she was a little kid, so I’ve known her a long time. She is elite. She will go professional — if she doesn’t go this year, she will go the following year.

“She’s one of the best in the country. It’s tough to get by her, but we did get by her, and we scored our goal and then we hit the post in the first half. But she was excellent all day, she is such a good player,” Walker continued.

Just three minutes after the opening kickoff, Bethea had an interception deep in Cincinnati’s zone, and a one-on-one ensued with 5-11 junior goalkeeper Anna Rexford, who had four saves.

A Bearcat defender closed in, but Bethea’s 25-foot angled shot hit the post.

“I think we had a lot of chances on goal today. I feel like we’re getting there. As the season progresses, the quality is going to get a lot better,” Bethea said.

“We just have to execute more of our chances — even me. I hit the post and I should have made that. So, it’s just as the season goes and as we practice, we practice more shots and practice more of our crosses and set pieces.

“That will come, but I think this is a really good building block for Tennessee (Aug. 31) coming up next week.”

For Gardner, it it was her first collegiate start after a strong performance against Michigan State last week. She had one shot against the Spartans and two shots against the Bearcats.

An Anthony Wayne graduate, Brynn Gardner joins two other former Generals, including her sister, 5-9 junior defender Emilie Gardner, and 5-5 freshman forward Alaina Uncapher on the BGSU roster.

“It’s just awesome. They are all good players. They are young, so the future is good with those guys,” Walker said.

“Uncy (Unchapher) came out and did really well, Brynn came out and scored a great goal, and Emilie Gardner came in and played really good minutes for us as well. It’s nice to see local talent doing well at BG.”

Brynn says it is almost as if she never left Whitehouse.

“It’s really fun. It just feels the same,” Brynn said. “It just feels like I’m playing one step above with my best friends. The connection just keeps growing and it is fun developing as players together.”

Brynn says she is still going to have to work hard to hold onto her starting spot.

“It feels really good, but it is just one game. You must keep working for your spot for the next game and the game after that,” Gardner said.

The Falcons outshot the Bearcats, 18-12, but Cincinnati got its lone goal on a 25-yard shot by 5-4 graduate forward Vanessa DiNardo on an assist from 5-10 senior midfielder Brandi Thomsen with 8:30 remaining in the first half.

BGSU had nine corner kicks to Cincinnati’s three, and BGSU 5-8 senior goalkeeper Lili Berg had three saves, including one where she flew high for to tip the ball over the goalpost late in the second half.