Sky Blue beats University of North Carolina, 2-0

ohara-gordon-42615

By TOM SLATER

After two pre-season games, Sky Blue FC is slowly but surely rounding into shape.

Sky Blue got the better of the University of North Carolina in their annual exhibition match at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, 2-0.

Natasha Kai provided an early highlight and a halftime scare with a goal in the fourth minute and a head injury right before halftime.

Before the fans — mostly youth players from the Shore area — settled in at the stadium, Kai put Sky Blue ahead with a conversion of a corner kick.

Kelley O’Hara, who is quickly developing a sense of comfort with Kai, launched a corner kick that was settled by Sarah Killion and passed to Kai. The Hawaiian made sure of the chance by slotting it home.

Kai and O’Hara were dangerous on the left side while Meg Morris made her presence felt on the right side as Sky Blue dominated much of the match.

Kai gave the fans and Sky Blue coaches a little bit of a scare right before halftime when she collided with a Tarheel forward going up for a corner kick in front of the Sky Blue goal. She crawled off the field holding her head before trainers provided treatment. According to Sky Blue, the striker was shaken up but not injured. She sat out the second half as a precaution.

Unlike last week, when Sky Blue substituted the entire lineup at the half, the hosts made more selective substitutions as coach Christy Holly is beginning to thin the herd and look toward combinations.

One of those combination was the central defender tandem of veteran Christie Rampone and rookie Erika Skroski. The two worked fine as Rampone gave the newcomer on-the-job tips as she helped with positioning until Rampone was subbed out just before an hour was played.

Sky Blue iced the victory when Kim DeCesare headed home a serve from rookie Leah Galton in the 61s minute.  Galton took the ball down the flank before delivering the serve to DeCesare. The goal continues the comeback from injury for the former Duke star.

The match also saw continued game time for a couple of players discovered at open tryout. Erin Simon of Syracuse and Danielle Schulmann of UConn both saw time. Simon played the entire game at right back while Schulmann came on for O’Hara and played the last half-hour.

The victory ends the exhibition schedule for Sky Blue — at least those open to the public. With three weeks until the New Jersey side visits Seattle to open National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) play on April 17.