Leyden enjoyed a mixed result at its West Campus on Saturday afternoon in a 1-1 draw with visiting Riverside-Brookfield (4-5-1) in a nonconference soccer match in Northlake.
The Eagles (6-7-1) celebrated when Dagmara Nowicka scored her first of the year to put the home side in front just six minutes into the contest . But Leyden saw its hope of getting to the .500 mark on the season dashed when Meaghan Dorsey drew the Bulldogs even at 24 minutes.
"It was a hard-fought, sometimes very physical game out there today, but I thought the girls responded to the challenge very well to get themselves a well-earned draw," said Leyden coach Rob Fowler. "We are not a team that plays a physical style, and to be honest, I was a little surprised to see the way we reacted to the challenge. But it was good to see the girls not back down, yet stay within themselves during the game."
Nowicka surprised R-B when she calmly brought the ball down, turned and struck a well-paced side volley past R-B keeper Lily Lisle.
Just after the opening goal, sophomore Anika Marchan nearly pulled her club back level, but her short left-footer went wide of the post after the Eagles had their trouble clearing.
The Bulldogs slowly began to win back the run of play, with energy and pace brought from central midfielders Amy Zyck and Lia Sanchez. Their hard word was rewarded just moments after Zyck rattled the crossbar, which resulted in a corner from Sanchez that found Dorsey.
After taking a few steps back while conceding the Bulldogs goal, Leyden quickly rebounded with some quality play before the intermission.
Brenda Valdez picked out Gabriella Castillo over the top, and she forced Lisle to save in the 27th minute.
The Eagles' best build-up of the first period, which had five different players get a touch, ended when Bianca Medina veered her shot wide on the half-hour.
"I thought we did some good things to help create some opportunities with our offense in the first half, but the second half was more physical, and much more of a defensive game than the first half," said Medina, who wears the captain's armband along with teammates Catrina Sanfillippo and Renee Dionisio.
Dioniso played a superb ball through to Nowicka in the opening minutes of the second half, and if not for a sensational point-blank save from R-B's keeper, the Eagles' striker would have given her club the lead.
Almost any attack from the hosts stemmed through Medina, as well as Valdez from the center of the park.
Maria Vlassopoulos drove her 73rd-minute free kick directly on frame and into the sure hands of Lisle, and the Eagles came even closer two minutes later when Dioniso nearly beat Lisle to a 50-50 ball Nohely Suarez had sent into the area.
"Even though we lost all of our top scorers from a year ago, and the fact that we have so many new players on our roster, I am not surprised that we've been able to win six games so far -- because this team is so close, and like family, on and off the field," said Medina.
"This is the best group of girls I've been around in my seven years here," Fowler said. "They enjoy being a team, each other, and they come to training and work hard -- never complaining while doing so. Because of that, we've improved each time out."