Battle by the Beach: A win, a loss and one proud coach


Noah Powers/The Seahawk

Audrey Harding (18)

Madelyn Waugh, Contributing Writer

Editor’s note: UNCW junior forward Audrey Harding received a share of the Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Week award following her performance over the weekend. Harding had two goals against Middle Tennessee — her second two-goal game of the season, as well as two assists.  

UNC Wilmington coach Chris Neal was proud of the way the Seahawks closed non-conference play at the Battle by the Beach; a 5-1 win against Middle Tennessee on Friday and a 1-0 loss against no. 16 Virginia Tech on Sunday, both at the UNC Wilmington Soccer Stadium. 

The Seahawks (4-3-0) knocked off Middle Tennessee (3-4-0) on Friday before squaring off with no. 16 Virginia Tech (8-0-0). Despite the loss on Sunday, the ‘Hawks managed to hold the Hokies to one goal.

After two consecutive road losses to Virginia Commonwealth and no. 25 Wake Forest, UNCW bounced back with a 5-1 win led by junior Sydney Schneider, with a season-high seven saves, and junior Audrey Harding with two goals and two assists. 

“We stuck true to our DNA,” said Neal, “and it was a pretty explosive night for us.” 

This “explosive night” started 45 minutes later than scheduled, as the previous game was delayed by lightning, but as Neal said, “you have to find a way to win.” 

The Seahawks clearly found their way 10 minutes into the first half, when freshman Jordan Faveri scored the first goal of her college career, assisted by another freshman, Emily Moxley, and junior Audrey Harding. The latter furthered this lead 17 minutes later when a cross from Moxley rebounded to junior Tara Pak, whose shot also rebounded, but to assist a goal by Harding who stood ready at the top of the six-yard box. 

With just under five minutes remaining in the first half, junior Grace Hershey claimed her first goal of the season, with assists by Grace Bondurant and Sam Francis. The Seahawks ended the first half with a 3-0 lead. 

“When the goals are being spread around, that’s the best part,” said Neal. “Not that we have different goal scorers, it’s the fact that so many people are doing their job to allow us to score five goals.” 

The Seahawks reached the fivegoal mark in the second half.  

With 16 minutes to go, Moxley received a pass from Harding and shot it into the bottom left corner. This was her third goal of the season and brought the score to 4-0. Just seconds later, an own goal from Middle Tennessee barred the Seahawks from a shutout. However, Harding, who wanted to put any hopes of a comeback to rest, finished a left-footed shot with 7 minutes to play.  

In the second half, Middle Tennessee took more than double their first half shots. Schneider did not budge and tallied seven saves from the match, her most in one game since Oct. 2017 against the College of Charleston. From this game, she also became the tenth Seahawk goalkeeper to make 100 college-career saves.  

One goal was not enough for the Blue Raiders to prevent a Seahawk win,  

“After playing and losing the last two games, coming back with a big win and actually scoring our chances definitely boosts our confidence,” said junior goalkeeper Sydney Schneider.  

With two goals and two assists, Harding said the win, “was really good for our team to build up our morale and get things going again. I think if we keep up the attack, we have a really good chance of beating Virginia Tech, so I think it will be a good game.”  

With this confidence, the Seahawks faced no. 16 Virginia Tech on Sunday. Even though they outshot the Hokies 11-9, the ball only touched the net once the entire game. Virginia Tech’s sophomore, Emily Gray, took a 25-yard free-kick 26 minutes into the game, the score was decided.  

“The first half we played pretty well,” said Neal. “The second half though, we created by far the best chances. We were the dominate team in the second half. Their goalkeeper made a really, really big time save to keep that game level.” 

In the second half, UNCW took 10 shots, a vast improvement from their one shot in the first half. Schneider made four saves for the Seahawks and Mandy McGlynn, Virginia Tech’s senior goalkeeper, blocked each of Faveri and Moxley’s shots to secure the shut out for the Hokies. 

“I’m so happy and proud of our team’s performance. I’m never pleased when we don’t score a goal, it’s not my nature, but I’m pleased with the chances we created and the work we put into creating those chances. I think it took a pretty special effort by their goalkeeper to keep us out today,” said Neal. “I think Virginia Tech probably feels lucky to have gotten out of here with a 1-0 victory.” 

The Battle by the Beach All-Tournament Team featured three players from UNCW: midfielder Audrey Harding (18), forward Emily Moxley (13) and defender Alysa McLaughlin. Players also chosen for the team were Rachel Kim and Olivia Freitas from the College of Charleston, Hannah Tillett and Sam DeBien from Middle Tennessee, and representing Virginia Tech was Mandy McGlynn, Jordan Hemmen, Grace Sklopan and MVP Emily Gray. 

UNCW will go on an 11-day hiatus before returning to the field on Sep. 26 at Elon to open CAA play. That matchup is set for a 7 p.m. start. The Seahawks will not return home until Sep. 29 to take on Northeastern.