RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Short of recording an upset win, first-year Rio Grande women’s soccer head coach Tony Daniels couldn’t have scripted a better debut.
Sophomore Rachel Haddad scored on a direct kick with 4:53 left to play in regulation — and the RedStorm battled visiting Davenport University to a season-opening 1-1 draw on Thursday night at a sauna-like Evan E. Davis Field.
Haddad — a midfielder from Gallipolis — accounted for Rio’s only shot on goal in the contest, netting the second goal of her collegiate career.
Rio Grande, which had been outscored 24-2 in four losses to the Panthers over the course of the past five seasons — including a 7-0 loss last year – was outshot 29-4 (11-1 in shots on goal).
“I’m proud of the girls. They never quit,” said Daniels, who took over the Rio women’s program after serving as an assistant coach with the men’s team for the past 25 seasons. “We’ve still got a long way to go, but they showed a lot of heart tonight. This is the kind of game that, hopefully, we can continue to build on.”
Davenport (1-0-1) snapped a scoreless tie just 25 seconds into the second stanza when Rio freshman goalkeeper Andrea Vera was whistled for a foul and Shameeka Fishley pushed a subsequent penalty kick past Vera.
That’s how things stayed until Davenport’s Lacey Chanady was whistled for a foul — and Haddad buried a direct kick from the top of the 18-yard box into the upper right-hand corner of the net to knot the score.
Vera stopped a total of five shots in the two overtime sessions and the Panthers had another shot by Roheema Bennett hit to the crossbar just 1:13 into the first extra session.
Vera finished with 10 saves in the tie for Rio Grande.
Regan Troff did not record a save in the deadlock for Davenport, which blanked another River States Conference school — Carlow University — 5-0 in its opener on Wednesday afternoon.
Rio Grande will make another attempt for its first win of the season when Marietta College visits on Sunday for a 1 p.m. kickoff.