Courtesy: Spencer Farrin (Pullman, Wash.)
|Soccer can't hold off Denver|
MOSCOW, Idaho – There was a flash of brilliance in the snow, but University of Idaho women’s soccer couldn’t hang onto an early 1-0 lead on Friday against No. 30 Denver at Guy Wicks Field in a 5-1 loss.
With temperatures in the mid-30s and a steady mix of sleet and snow throughout the day, the pitch was slick in some spots and soggy in others, but both teams weathered the storm.
Idaho (5-13-1, 2-4-1 Western Athletic Conference) withstood an early barrage from the Pioneers (13-1-4, 5-0-2 WAC), then took the lead in the 18th minute on a strong counter attack. Senior midfielder Megan Lopez got things started down the middle of the field and sent a diagonal to sophomore mid Katie Baran, who created a little space and cut in a cross in front of goal.
Senior forward Chelsea Small cut back across the defense, took one touch and hit it lefty across the grain into the right corner to give Idaho a 1-0 lead. She has now scored a goal in four consecutive games. The goal extended her career school-record total to 39.
“I think the whole first half, we stuck to our game plan,” Idaho head coach Peter Showler said. “We knew they’d put us under a lot of pressure with their movement and passing and they’re very good at it, but we dealt with it.
“Building on that, we get on the other end and our first shot of the half, Chelsea does what she does and puts it in the back of the old onion bag and suddenly, the game is different.”
Denver answered back less than 10 minutes later to steal the momentum and turn the tide of the match. First, DU’s Nicholette Digiacomo was in the right place at the right time at 26:41, when Idaho’s defense tried to clear a ball low. She intercepted the clearance and sent it straight back in to equalize.
Less than two minutes later, Denver pressured forward and earned a corner, then DU’s Jessy Battelli one-timed in the ensuing kick for the game-winner at 28:08. The teams played the remainder of the half at a standstill.
“I was disappointed to be 2-1 down, but I was pleased with how we played that first half,” Showler said.
Idaho showed signs of early pressure in the second half, but DU put the game out of reach with a 64th-minute goal from Kaitlin Bast. Denver added two more late scores from Taylor Ivins and Anna Willis to get to the final tally.
Showler said that the big difference in the game was a handful of errant touches that gave Denver small windows of opportunity. The Pioneers entered the game unbeaten in their previous 16, and showed why on those chances.
“Denver was every good as their ranking shows, and on the day, they deserved to win. We never stopped battling, but it just wasn’t to be today,” Showler said. “Giving half-chances to a team of that quality – they don’t need to be asked twice to finish those.”
Denver finished the match with a 28-4 shots advantage and a 10-6 edge on corner kicks. Idaho keeper Liz Boyden made seven saves and allowed four scores in 81:26, while DU’s Lara Campbell earned the win with no saves and one goal allowed in 90 minutes.
While the loss hurts, Idaho still has plenty to play for on Sunday against New Mexico State (2-13-3, 0-6-1 WAC). The Vandals can still clinch a bid to their third-consecutive WAC Tournament with a victory. The team could potentially also clinch with a draw, but would also need three other specific results in the other WAC matches of the day.
“We’ve got to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, snow and all, and know that it’s in our own hands on Sunday,” Showler said. “I have great belief that the girls will come out ready and that they know what we need to do.”
Sunday’s match, which kicks off at 1 p.m. (PT) at Guy Wicks Field, is also Senior Day for the team’s 10 seniors. There will be brief pregame ceremony and then fans are encouraged to stick around for a full postgame presentation and celebration of the winningest four-year group in Idaho soccer history.