Courtesy: Spencer Farrin (Moscow, Idaho)
Megan Lopez led Idaho with three shots on Friday.
Second-half lull dooms soccer
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 10/21/2011
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MOSCOW, Idaho – Down to an emergency goalkeeper against preseason Western Athletic Conference favorite Utah State, Idaho soccer played a tremendous first half, early second-half mistakes led to a 3-0 loss at Guy Wicks Field.

Idaho (6-9-3, 2-3-1 WAC) stuck to the game plan perfectly in the first half in that the team controlled the pace, dictated play and for the most part, kept the action on the USU side of the field and protected a goal occupied by emergency keeper Morgan Porter – a freshman forward.

In just the third minute of the second half, though, USU’s Jennifer Flynn snuck behind the defense and scored an open shot from the edge of the 18-yard box to put the Aggies up 1-0. Just five minutes later, it was another Flynn breakaway and 1v1 scoring chance to suddenly turn a gritty tie into a 2-0 Utah State lead.

“We were unfortunate not to get a goal – we dominated the first half, but we talked at halftime and said we can’t switch off and give other teams the opportunities,” Idaho head coach Pete Showler said. “The first half was tremendous, but if we only do it for 45 minutes, we’re going to struggle. Today, we made it a struggle.”

Idaho outshot the Aggies by a 7-4 margin in the first half and had its fair share of chances, including six corner kicks, but wasn’t able to convert. Utah State (12-4-1, 4-1-0 WAC) turned the tables in the second half by putting up eight shots, four of which were on goal.

Porter made two saves in her first career start, while USU keeper Molli Merrill had two stops of her own and an Aggie defender made one team save late in the first half with Merrill on the ground and an open net.

“Not many keepers are going to stop those goals,” Showler said. “Morgan did what she needed to do. She came off her line well, read the situations well and kicked the ball well, and that gave the team confidence.

“It takes a lot of guts to step in and do that when you’re not a natural keeper.”

The loss adds an extra hurdle into Idaho’s bid to earn a qualifying spot into a second-straight WAC Tournament. The Vandals have seven points through six WAC matches. Six of the eight schools will qualify, and since every team has at least one victory, every school is still in contention for one of the six coveted spots.

“If we win, we’ll still have to see how other results go, but we’ll give ourselves an opportunity,” Showler said. “This is a team that deserves to go to the tournament. When we play well, we can compete with just about anyone, but we’ve just got to go out and prove it. I believe they can do it, but they just have to step out and do it.”

Idaho is in third position in the conference standings, pending Friday evening’s matches. Fresno State hosts Louisiana Tech and San Jose State hosts New Mexico State. Fresno State sits directly below Idaho with six points entering the weekend, while SJSU and NMSU are tied with four apiece and LTU is joined by Nevada in a tie for seventh with three points.

Idaho plays Nevada on Sunday at 12 p.m. at Guy Wicks Field for Senior Day. The Vandals will honor their lone senior, Alison “Larry” Page, in a pregame ceremony.

“Larry has been here almost as long as I have,” Showler said. “She’s a big part of this program, a great leader and a great captain. The girls will step out not only for themselves and for the team, but to send Larry off on a great note on her Senior Day.”

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