The sixth-ranked women’s soccer team opened up its 2012 season with a pair of spectacular overtime victories last weekend.

The Eagles first faced the defending national champions Messiah College (Pa.) on Saturday, and then traveled to play Franklin and Marshall College (Pa.) on Sunday.

In both games, Emory fought hard to get the results that they had hoped for. The Eagles now sit at 2-0-0 on the season.

“We played really well. It was definitely a battle both games for very different reasons,” senior midfielder Clare Mullins said. “Our team played really well and we fought really hard and we put in a lot of work to get the two results out of it.”

In both games, Emory’s defense had dominant outings and shut down its opponents. In the 200 minutes played between the two games, the Eagles allowed just 12 shots, only four of which were on goal.

After falling to Messiah College in the final round of the NCAA Tournament last fall, the Eagles were eager to open their 2012 season with a rematch against the defending national champions.

“We knew going into it that we all had high hopes,” Mullins said. “But it was just a hard battle … we had actually nothing to lose, we were the underdogs and we fought the entire time.”

Both teams came out strong and determined, but the Eagles were the first to get on the scoreboard.

Sophomore transfer forward Karina Rodriguez scored at 28:39 in her Emory debut to give the Eagles an early 1-0 lead.

Sophomore forward Emily Feldman originally took a shot from the left side of the field, but Messiah’s goalkeeper made the save. Rodriguez managed to get the rebound and put it to the back of the net.

“It gives us the boost of adrenaline that we need to carry us throughout the game … if you can go up early and set the tone, you can keep them on their heels and keep attacking,” Mullins said.

The Falcons were quick to respond with a goal of their own in the 31st minute to make it a tie game.

The Eagles defense was able to block the initial shot, but it deflected to Falcons’ freshman forward Trisha Tshudy, who sent the ball back towards the net for the equalizer.

“When they tied it up it was kinda a blow,” Mullins said. “But [also] it was just kinda more motivation to finish the way we started the game, which was ahead.”

After the first 45 minutes of play, the Eagles had a 5-3 advantage in shots.

However, in the second frame, Messiah began to pick up some momentum, as they took the first five shots of the period. The Eagles began to regain their dominance midway through the second half, and they created a few close opportunities to take the lead.

Their best chance came in the 66th minute when Mullins headed a shot towards the net, but it bounced off the crossbar.

With 90 minutes gone in the game and the two teams tied at 1-1, the game had to be decided in extra time.

Neither team managed a shot in the overtime period until Mullins’ penalty kick at the 96:21 mark.

Feldman drew a foul to set up the penalty kick for Mullins, which she was able to sink in the back of the net for her fifth game-winning goal of her career, and to lift the Eagles to a 2-1 victory over the top-ranked defending national champions.

“It was a very surreal experience, and I was lucky I had the chance to take the penalty kick,” Mullins said. “It was nerve-racking, but I was happy I could execute the way my team needed me to.”

Senior goalkeeper Kaele Leonard was in goal for the Eagles for the second half of the game and the overtime period.

Leonard was credited with the win for Emory.

The Eagles’ defense also played a key role in the match, as they held the sixth-ranked Messiah offense to just three shots on goal in the game.

Despite fighting through a long and intense game Saturday, the Eagles came out strong and dominant in Sunday’s match against Franklin and Marshall College.

While the Eagles controlled the majority of the game, neither team scored in regulation.After 90 minutes of 0-0 play, the Eagles were forced to enter another overtime duel.

Emory did have a chance to claim in the win regulation.

The Eagles drew a foul inside the box to set up a penalty kick with just a little under four minutes left to play.

Mullins took the kick for the Eagles and had the possibility of scoring her second game-winning penalty kick of the weekend.

However, the Diplomats’ goalkeeper made the save to send the game into extra time.

In the first overtime period, Rodriguez shot a ball towards the net, but it went just wide and the game to remained scoreless.

It was not until the 108th minute of play in the second overtime period that the first goal of the game was made.

Feldman scored the “golden goal” to notch Emory’s second victory of the season. Freshman defender Ally Peterson sent a pass to Feldman, who then netted the ball on a point-blank shot from inside the box. The goal was Feldman’s first golden goal of her career and capped off a big weekend for the sophomore.

In addition to the game-winning goal in Sunday’s game, Feldman also made a few critical plays in Saturday’s contest. Feldman assisted Emory’s first goal against Messiah and she also drew the foul to set up Mullins’ game-winning penalty kick.

Feldman now leads all Emory players with three points this season.

“She just kept attacking and kept running at the team, and for her to get those results was amazing,” Mullins said. “The whole team was incredibly proud of her, but that is just the way Emily is. She is just a great player all the way around.”

The Eagles finished the game with a total of 25 shots, which included five that were on goal.

Emory’s defense had another outstanding performance, limiting the Diplomats’ offense to just three shots, one of which was on goal. Senior goalkeeper Erica Stein started in goal for Emory and played throughout the first half of the game.

Stein made one save in the 45 minutes that she played. Leonard took over for Stein in the second frame and played for both overtime periods as well. Despite not having to stop one shot, Leonard was credited with the win for the Eagles.

The team will now focus its attention to the Meredith College National Invitational Classic in Raleigh, N.C., where Emory will play its next match against third-ranked Johns Hopkins University (Md.) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

– By Elizabeth Weinstein