Courtesy: Ilya Pinchuk (Moscow, Idaho)
|Quick start, big win|
RUSTON, La. – In a must-win match, on the road, facing a team unbeaten in 11-consecutive games, University of Idaho women’s soccer struck early and then withstood a furious rally for a 2-1 in at Louisiana Tech on Sunday.
Entering the match, the Lady Techsters were 6-0-2 at home and had surrendered just two total goals in their first eight home games. The Vandals struck twice in the first 12 minutes to grab the momentum, then the Idaho back line did the rest to preserve the win and the crucial three points in the conference standings.
The win moves the Vandal women to 5-12-1 overall and 2-3-1 in the Western Athletic Conference, while LA Tech slips to 12-2-4 overall and 3-1-2 in the WAC.
“We talked about starting fast and taking control of the game as quickly as we could, because they just don’t give any goals up on their home field and they’ve gotten so many wins at home,” Idaho head coach Peter Showler said. “We knew we’d have to get after them early.”
Sophomore midfielder Katie Baran did just that in the second minute when she headed down senior Megan Lopez’s crossing pass, then popped it down the center at 1:55.
“Being a narrow pitch, we knew we had to get in behind their back line a little quicker,” Showler said. “We just talked about how we had to cut it inside and create some space. It was a great cut-back cross and a fantastic finish from Katie.”
The second-year Vandal from Nine Mile Falls, Wash., tallied her third goal of the season with the strike. She now ranks second on the team with 11 points this year and has registered a point in five of Idaho’s last six matches.
The Vandals weren’t content with the early score and kept their foot on the pedal. They were rewarded less than 10 minutes later when Jill Flockhart fired off a scorcher from the corner of 18-yard box that LA Tech keeper Corina Brown saved but couldn’t handle, then senior Chelsea Small cleaned up the scraps with a poke to the right corner at 11:14.
The score is Small’s second game-winner in her last three contests and her fourth score in Idaho’s last six games. She’s now netted a goal in each of Idaho’s last three matches. The game-winning goal also pushes her school-record career total to 16.
“It was a great shot in and the keeper struggled to hold it because it was such a difficult one, and Chelsea was a poacher – she put her body between herself and the keeper, touched it away and slotted it in,” Showler said.
While the first 12 minutes seemed like fun and games, the final 78 were a test in Vandal resolve. The Lady Techsters pushed everything forward and sent in through balls, diagonals and lobs over the top trying to find an opening, but Idaho’s back line kept a tight seal.
LA Tech earned seven corners to Idaho’s one in the first half, but the Vandals took a 9-7 shots advantage and held a 2-0 halftime lead. Showler said he told his team to expect an even greater push from the home team coming out of the half.
“We knew that they were going to bombard us and come at us in the second half,” Showler said. “We knew being two-nil down, they would have to hammer it around the goal and try to get corners and shots, but we stuck to the task.”
Tech broke through in the 83rd minute after a cleared corner kick went straight back to Brittany Beddow, who sent in a long ball from 20 yards that curled into the top corner and gave Idaho keeper Liz Boyden no chance to save.
Over the final seven minutes, LA Tech kept pushing and “threw everything at us but the kitchen sink,” Showler said. The Techsters provided one final heart-stopping moment in the closing seconds when a deflected cross rolled just wide of the Vandal net as time expired.
“They scored a very good goal, but the girls just picked themselves up and went back at them,” Showler said. “The girls just stuck to the task and worked their socks off. They got everything they deserved today and I’m so proud of them. This is a very good result against a very good team.”
The final tally showed a 14-12 overall edge in shots by LA Tech, but a 6-5 advantage in on-target attempts for the Vandals. Louisiana Tech earned 14 corners to Idaho’s one and the Vandals committed 13 fouls, compared to five for LA Tech.
Boyden made four saves to earn the win, while Brown also stopped four for the Lady Techsters.
With a jumble in the middle of the WAC standings and only six available bids to the WAC Tournament, next weekend’s final home stand is a critical one for the Vandal women. The team hosts Denver on Friday at 3 p.m. (PT), then finishes up the regular season on Sunday against New Mexico State at 1 p.m.
Sunday’s match will also be a special day because it’s Senior Day at Guy Wicks Field. The team will bid farewell to its 10 seniors who have set new standards across the board with the program. The win over LA Tech on Sunday extended that group’s school record to 35 career wins.
“Now we’ve got to come back, finish the weekend strongly and keep things in our own hands,” Showler said. “Denver is top-25 for a reason and they’re one of the top teams in the country. New Mexico State is going to come in wanting to prove a point, so we have two crucial, crucial games.
“This senior group has set so many standards that a strong weekend would be a great way to finish it off for them.”