Courtesy: Spencer Farrin (Moscow, Idaho)
Jill Flockhart netted her fifth career game-winner on Sunday.
Soccer defies elements
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 09/25/2011
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MOSCOW, Idaho – Neither 20 mph winds, nor a sudden downpour, nor a tall, physical Eastern Washington squad could deny the University of Idaho women’s soccer team a victory on Sunday at Guy Wicks Field.

A Jill Flockhart score less than a minute into the second half proved the difference-maker in a 1-0 victory in the team’s final non-conference match before starting Western Athletic Conference play. Idaho moves to 4-6-2, while EWU slips to 1-7-0.

Facing gusty winds for the entire first half, the Idaho women maintained possession and put on the pressure by keeping the ball where the wind couldn’t touch it, and outshot the Eagles by a 12-4 margin in the first period.

“The wind the first half was so strong, it’s always going to be a battle against it, but we let the ball do the work today,” Idaho head coach Pete Showler said. “We kept it on the floor and played great soccer, which is the only way to counteract a wind that strong.”

Despite the many scoring chances, the only sound from the crowd of 278 in the first half was moans and groans as Vandal shots went just about everywhere except the net. Multiple Idaho attempts went off the crossbar and EWU keeper Jamie Walker kept the Eagles in the match with an impressive nine saves in the game, six after the half.

“I really thought there was a force-field around the goal today,” Showler joked after the match. “How some of those stayed out of the net, I don’t know. Some of them defied the laws of physics.”

Just 44 seconds into the period, Idaho got the ball into the EWU box, and junior forward Chelsea Small took a shot that was blocked directly to Flockhart, who calmly placed it into the left corner for her fifth career game-winner.

“I said to them at halftime that with that much possession and that many shots on goal, just to be patient and it will come – I didn’t think it would come that quickly, but I’ll take that any time,” Showler said.

Midway through the second half, with Idaho leading and Eastern Washington pressing hard, a quick burst of rain created a slippery environment, but the Vandal defensive backfield held strong and allowed just two EWU attempts after the half to give the team its first shutout of the season.

“We’ve been working for a shutout this whole season, and today we just came together as a defense,” junior defender Erica Hart said. “We were throwing our bodies in front of everything to deny shots on goal.”

The result was also the first career clean sheet and first victory for junior keeper Caroline Towles, who made three saves in the match. Small led all players with a career-high and WAC individual season-high 13 shot attempts. Her assist on Flockhart’s score is the 10th of her career, which makes her just the second player in program history with double-figure career goals and assists.

As a team, Idaho attempted 24 total shots, with a season-high 11 on goal. The Vandals also earned a season-high 10 corners. Eastern Washington attempted six shots with four on target, earned seven corners and was whistled for 15 fouls. Each side was credited with a team save.

The win breaks a three-game skid for Idaho and puts the Vandals on the right track as they head to California next weekend to open WAC play at Fresno State and San Jose State. Showler said he hopes to build off Sunday’s performance as the team enters the “second season.”

“We won’t get carried away with this one win, but we’ll take the positives away from it and build on them going forward,” Showler said. “We’ll review the non-conference portion of the season on Tuesday in practice. We’ll look at what went well and what we need to improve on and we’ll continue to work on building consistency in everything we do.”

Friday’s match at Fresno State kicks off at 4 p.m. (PDT), while Sunday’s game against San Jose State will start at 1 p.m. Idaho will try to win its WAC opener for the third year in a row on Friday. Idaho beat Hawai`i, 3-1, last season, and won, 1-0, at Louisiana Tech in the 2009 conference opener.

“We need that enthusiasm to keep pushing and keep winning,” Hart said about the start of WAC play. “We’ve got a lot of big games ahead of us, so we’ve got to stick to it and keep fighting hard, because it’s about to begin.”

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