Courtesy photo

Junior striker Itzel Ballesteros scored two goals and added a pair of assists as the Lady Railsplitters opened the 2018 campaign with a lightning-shortened 4-1 win over the Erskine Flying Fleet.

Ballesteros shines, Lady Splitters open season with 4-1 win

HARROGATE, Tenn. — Junior striker Itzel Ballesteros scored two goals and added a pair of assists as the Lady Railsplitters opened the 2018 campaign with a lightning-shortened 4-1 win over the Erskine Flying Fleet on Thursday at the LMU Soccer Complex.

Lincoln Memorial jumped out to a 3-0 halftime lead, but were forced to sit for an 82-minute lightning delay with 41 minutes left in the second half.

After waiting out the weather, the Lady Railsplitters traded goals with Erskine over the next 24 minutes until the match was officially called due to another lightning strike in the 73rd minute.

“I think we did well. Going forward, every time we crossed the halfway line we looked like we were going to score,” head coach Sean Fraser said. “We had a lot of chances, which is what we have been working on a lot.

“It’s always tough when you have a delay. You stiffen up, your mind goes somewhere else, so it’s always difficult to get back up for it. But we scored.”

The Lady Railsplitters outshot Erskine 20-8, including a 7-3 edge in shots on goal. LMU set the pace, in particular, in the first half, outshooting the Fleet 15-4 over the first 45 minutes.

Making her first appearance in the Blue and Gray, Ballesteros scored goals in the seventh and 53rd minutes and added assists on goals from Maria Hernandez (31’) and Mariana Diaz (43’). Ballesteros recorded six shots, while freshman forward Jessica Cravero logged a match-high eight shots.

“She’s all action. She’s done it all,” Fraser said of Ballesteros. “She’s never stopped and she deserved the goals. When you got a front four with her, Cravero and then with the two wingbacks against four, we are very dangerous. And that’s why we continued to create chances.”

Ballesteros’ six points were the most by an LMU player since the 2015 season.

Lincoln Memorial mostly dominated from start to finish, but a well-placed corner from Katie Cauble resulted in a header goal from Marissa Miltko in the 66th minute to put Erskine on the board and end the Lady Railsplitters’ shutout bid.

“I’m disappointed we conceded, but at the same time I’m ok that we conceded because now we can look at it and say, ‘Hey, we got to improve in that way,’” Fraser said.

Junior goalkeeper Ann-Marie O’Connell made two saves in her debut for the Lady Railsplitters.

The Lady Railsplitters will rest on Friday before returning to the pitch on Saturday, Sept. 1 to host Salem at 1 p.m. at the LMU Soccer Complex. Live stats and video links will be available at www.lmurailsplitters.com.