Soccer scores first win in seven
When two teams meet on the heels of six-match winless streaks, something has to give. And for one of the first times this season, the Idaho soccer team caught the break, beating the Utah Valley Wolverines 1-0 Friday before falling at UNLV 1-0 Sunday.
After losing six straight matches dating back to the end of August, the Vandals (3-9) were desperate for both goals and a clean sheet against a Wolverine side that was in a similar skid. Luckily for Idaho, the back line led by senior goalkeeper Liz Boyden was able to hold off an inconsistent Utah Valley attack and distribute the ball well out of the back, pushing the Vandals attack and triggering 17 shots, compared to Utah Valley’s 18.
Idaho’s breakthrough moment came in the 65th minute when senior midfielder Megan Lopez played a darting through ball behind the Wolverine defense to the left wing where senior forward Erica Hart dribbled into the box and around one defender, finally striking the right-footed shot into the bottom left corner of the net past a helpless Lauren Sack.
“If you’re playing up top you always have to hold your line because getting called offside just ruins the play, but Megan played a perfect ball through and I couldn’t ask for a better ball in that situation,” Hart said.
Hart’s finish was the only goal in a match that could have seen one or two more find their way into the net on both sides of the pitch, but walking away with their first win in almost a month was all Idaho coach Pete Showler cared about.
“It’s been coming for a while and that type of performance is going to be one that helps us in those circumstances,” Showler said. “The girls adjusted well and played to the adjustments we made which made it hard for them to break us down. I’m just proud of that win for the girls because it’s what they deserved, but it just hasn’t been coming in the last few games.”
The win was also a historic one for the Vandals as the victory marked the 34th in the career of the team’s 10 seniors, the most of any senior class in Vandal history.
Junior Nitalia Zuniga got the start alongside senior Chelsea Breen at center back, a combination that helped secure Idaho’s first clean sheet since Idaho defeated North Dakota State 2-0 Aug. 26.
Zuniga said she was happy with the performance she put in, alongside Breen and behind fellow center back Christine Leathem who started at the center defensive midfielder position for the first time this season.
“We just started actually practicing that formation this week, and Christine is more taking over Amber Pimley’s spot since she’s a little more defensively-minded,” Zuniga said. “It’s good being able to put (Leathem) back there because she’s a defender and in turn more defensive minded which allows her to get back there and help us out.”
Following the victory, the Vandals travelled to Las Vegas for a showdown with the UNLV Rebels (8-2-1) in an attempt to start a new winning streak.
After holding the potent UNLV attack to a scoreless first half, a goal in the Vandal net during the 75th minute gave the Rebels a lead they would not relinquish.
Boyden tallied six saves in the match while senior forward Chelsea Small accounted for six of the Vandals’ seven shots in the match, including two late chances to equalize inside the 18-yard box, both of which went wide of the target.
UNLV marked the final non-conference match of the season for Idaho, who opens WAC play on the road starting Friday, Sept. 28 with the schedule’s biggest question marks in newcomers Texas State and Texas-San Antonio.
Madison McCord can be reached at email@example.com