|Soccer clinches WAC berth|
MOSCOW, Idaho –
It took a battle, but the Idaho women’s soccer team put away Nevada on Sunday
and clinched a second-consecutive Western Athletic Conference Tournament bid
with a 2-1 victory at Guy Wicks Field.
Sophomore Bailey Hewitt’s 81st-minute goal proved the
deciding factor after a long-range free kick goal by Nevada knotted the game at
1-1 in the 69th minute. The win puts Idaho at 7-9-3 overall and 3-3-1 in the
WAC, while Nevada slips to 3-14 and 1-4 in conference play.
Under the WAC scoring system, the three points for Sunday’s
victory gives Idaho 10 points in the standings. Paired with the Louisiana Tech
loss on Sunday, Idaho’s win guarantees that the Vandals can finish no worse
than sixth in the conference.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but the thing is that we’ve
battled through,” Idaho junior forward Chelsea Small said. “We knew today that
this was in our own hands, so we came out and gave it everything we had for the
In addition to the postseason implications, the game was an
emotional one for the Vandals because of the Senior Day celebration for
defender Alison Page, affectionately nicknamed “Larry” by her teammates.
“I was just looking for somebody to hug,” Hewitt said of her
game-winner. “Larry works her tail off for this program and she’s helped it
grow from where it was to where it is now, and I’m so happy we could get the
win today – that goal was for her.”
Small got the Vandals on the board first in the 37th minute
with an unassisted goal after corralling a pass in, poking the ball away from a
defender, then sneaking a rolling bank shot through the defense and off the
left post for her 10th goal of the year.
Small also played a part in Hewitt’s game-winner when she
took a throw from junior defender Lauren Layton in the box and headed it
perfectly backward and over the top of the defense to an open Hewitt right in
front of goal for the finish.
The second goal came after multiple exasperating
near-chances for Idaho, including one header goal that was called off after contact
with the Nevada keeper, two close-range one-timers that were saved and another
rebound shot that hit the crossbar.
“We played with more passion and commitment after we conceded
the goal,” Showler said. “One shot hit the bar and one was disallowed, but we
kept going after them, and then one dropped perfectly for Bailey. It showed a
lot of grit and determination, and that was what we needed today.”
Idaho outshot Nevada, 16-12 overall and 9-6 on goal. The
Vandals also held a 4-0 advantage in corners. The Wolf Pack was whistled
offside six times to Idaho’s four. Nevada keeper Dana Moreno made seven saves
along with the two goals, while Vandal junior keeper Caroline Towles allowed
one goal and stopped five shots.
Showler said that with both teams needing a win for WAC
Tournament consideration that the team expected the Wolf Pack to push the pace,
and while Nevada sent a lot forward, he was proud of the way the Idaho defense
maintained its composure.
“Nevada pushed to four forwards – they knew they had to get
something out of the game, and with a strong wind behind them, it was an
effective tactic, but we dealt with it,” Showler said. “The back line was
tremendous today, and everybody defended like demons. They made it difficult on
us, but I was just proud of how our girls responded.”
While the WAC slate is now finished, that doesn’t mean all
the important games are over. The Governor’s Cup is on the line next weekend
when Idaho travels to Boise State for a Saturday match against the Broncos.
Since both teams beat Idaho State earlier this year, it’s a true
winner-take-all scenario for the Cup, but in the event of a draw, the Vandals
would retain the crown based on their better goal differential.
Idaho is trying to become the first team in 13-year Cup
history to take the crown in three consecutive seasons.
“We want to prepare ourselves well for the conference
tournament, and there’s no better way than going down there on the back of
today’s performance,” Showler said. “Boise State wants to win as much as we do,
but we’ve just got to work harder than them to get it.
“It would be great to get a hat trick of Governor’s Cups on
Saturday’s match kicks off at 11 a.m. (PDT) at Boise State’s Boas Soccer Complex.