‘AW connection’ helps Falcons earn 2-2 tie with Toledo

Bowling Green State University freshman forward Brynn Gardner calls it “a little bit of Anthony Wayne chemistry.”

Gardner was referring to a long pass booted downfield by freshman forward Alaina Uncapher toward Gardner, who scored to tie Thursday’s game with Toledo, 2-2, with 11:35 remaining at Cochrane Soccer Stadium Thursday.

Not long ago, Gardner and Uncapher were teammates, playing for coach Lori Williams at AW.

Despite controlling possession, the Falcons had to settle for a 2-2 tie in their Mid-American Conference opener with the Rockets. The Falcons are 2-3-2 and the Rockets are 1-4-3.

On the game-tying counter, Gardner had to beat just one defender, which she did, and then she beat Toledo freshman goalkeeper Karson Hill by sending a shot to Hill’s left into the net.

Gardner said the only thoughts going through her head were, “We need one more. Beat the one defender and put it in the back of the net.”

The Falcons could have used a little more of that mentality, outshooting Toledo 26-9, but BGSU never even held the lead.

The Falcons had nine shots on goal to Toledo’s four, but the Rockets scored on two of them. BGSU coach Jimmy Walker says his team must learn how to cash in when the opportunity arises.

“We had plenty of opportunities tonight. When you have 26 shots you should win those games,” Walker said. “It’s something we’ve talked about a lot with this team.

“We’ve got to be more clinical in front of the goal. We haven’t hit our stride going forward. We’ve got the players to do it.”

Walker says ties in soccer can be very “cruel,” especially when your team is dominant on the pitch.

“Tonight’s game we dominated possession, we played well between the two penalty areas, and we dominated the stats. Soccer is a cruel game sometimes,” Walker said.

“You can dominate and come away with a tie, like what happened tonight. That’s what’s disappointing. But we’ll go again. We know we are a good team. We are capable of winning the conference.”

Toledo coach T.J. Buchholz was proud of his team for earning a tie against BGSU, the four-time defending MAC champions.

“Kudos to Bowling Green — they are a great program and they’ve won the conference,” Bucholz said.

“So, for us to come in and be able to get a result on the road is good for us. But they are a great team and I think for us, we knew it was going to be tough and you must weather all their offense and what they bring to the table.

“But I think our team stepped up and played really well against a good team.”

Toledo led 1-0 at halftime after Western Michigan transfer Morgan Otteson, a graduate student, nailed a 30-yard shot unassisted with 17:23 remaining in the first half.

Over 15 minutes of the second half went by before the Falcons took advantage of a corner kick. The Falcons had eight CKs to the Rockets’ two, but this was the only time it paid dividends for BGSU.

BGSU did not score on the CK but kept possession in the box for over a minute of play before senior forward Kennedy White scored, assisted by Gardner with 29:16 remaining. The 1-1 tie lasted just three minutes.

Off BGSU fouls, UT got two consecutive free kick opportunities off BGSU fouls on both sides of the box that they were able to play like corner kicks.

Twenty seconds after the second free kick the Rockets got a third set piece on an actual CK, which led to a score.

The CK itself was dejected by the BGSU defense and sent outside the box. However, Toledo junior midfielder Emily Mann was there and sent a cross back into the box.

Mann’s cross was redirected by sophomore forward Mia Leonetti toward sophomore forward Madison Medalle, who one-timed a quick-hitter past BGSU senior keeper Lili Berg, putting Toledo back on top, 2-1

Although the Falcons dominated play on the pitch, the Rockets evened the score on set pieces by taking advantage of 27 fouls whistled against the Falcons.

The Rockets were issued just 12 fouls. In addition, four yellow cards went against BGSU, just one against Toledo.

Despite the discrepancies, Walker liked “the fight” he saw in his team after they completed their second comeback and earned the tie.

“Today, the forwards in the first half didn’t do well but did really well in the second half, and then we messed up a little bit defensively,” Walker said. “We’ve got to have a performance together where everybody, offense, defense, everybody plays well.

“I was pleased with the way we responded after going down a goal. We came back, and we went down a second goal and we came back again.

“So, it’s pleasing that even though we were down a goal we had the mentality to come back and fight, but obviously we have things that we need to continue to build on.”

BGSU will head to Kalamazoo for a Sunday matchup with Western Michigan University beginning at 1 p.m. at the WMU Soccer Complex.

“Western Michigan is going to give us a different kind of challenge,” Walker said. “They are a good team, they’ve got a new coach, so they are looking to impress their new coach and get a great start as well.”

Gardner, who did not start Thursday, was not with the team when they won championships the last four years. But she spoke for her older teammates who have won MAC titles on where the team goes next.

“We have a conference championship to defend. We are going to keep up that mentality, take it one game at a time, and we’ll see what happens,” Gardner said.

Gardner says her team has built a culture that will eventually pay off.

“Every day you are competing for a spot in practice, so that challenges each and every one of us so much. I think that really contributes to our culture, so that helps,” Gardner said.

She added that the Falcons are focused, even when playing a rival like Toledo.

“Honestly, I was just worried about our team and what we were doing. We weren’t focused on their game. We were coming out and we were focusing on how we were doing and how we were performing.”