Whole new WAC world — Vandal soccer faces new WAC members Texas State and Texas-San Antonio, opens conference play
If Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that there’s always a happy ending after the rough road.
In the case of the Idaho Vandals soccer team, that reward is opening WAC play on the road with conference newcomers Texas State at 5 p.m. Friday in San Marcos, Texas, and Texas-San Antonio at 11 a.m. Sunday in San Antonio.
The Vandals (3-9) are coming off a weekend where a much-improved back line allowed only one goal against a talented UNLV offense just days after recording their third clean sheet in a victory over Utah Valley.
Idaho’s focus shifts to Texas, where everything is a little bigger — including the question mark surrounding these two fairly unknown programs, beginning with Texas State.
Idaho coach Pete Showler said that, like the Vandals, Texas State’s 2-7-1 record does not reflect their quality or skill.
“These are programs that are fairly unknown to us, and from what we’ve seen they’re a skilled side whose record doesn’t show that,” Showler said. “We have the advantage though of being able to go in there and play our brand of soccer, because we don’t know too much about them.”
Like Idaho, the Bobcats have played a tough non-conference schedule, battling quality sides like Texas, UTEP and TCU.
In order for the Vandals to get off to a perfect start in conference play, they must start scoring goals, a feat they’ve only achieved 10 times in their 12 matches.
It may be up to senior forward Chelsea Small to shoulder some of the responsibility of getting the ball into the back of the net.
“We have to have a positive mental attitude around goal and we need to learn to take the shot from anywhere because you never know who or what it will hit off of,” Small said. “Practicing finishing and getting the balls into the back of the net, something I’ve had some good opportunities to do over the last few days, will definitely help our confidence get where it needs to be.”
Like Idaho, both teams they face this weekend play a similar 4-5-1 formation, but Showler said once the ball is kicked the game tends to open up more.
“It’s such a fluid game that, once the ball goes, we shift and move all the time, and the girls are so familiar with what we need to do that we just have to react to what they do,” Showler said.
After finishing up in San Marcos, Texas, the Vandals will head southeast to San Antonio, where they will face a slumping UTSA side desperate for a win.
The Roadrunners (1-7) are currently on a four-match losing streak due in part to their struggles in the goal-scoring department. Idaho sophomore midfielder Katie Baran hopes to contribute to their scoring woes.
“My biggest goal for this year is regardless of the minutes I get on the field, I was working hard, and this year we’ve really been focusing on staying with our mark, so going into every game, that’s my main focus,” Baran said.
Alongside Baran will most likely be senior midfielder Megan Lopez, whom Baran said is the perfect partner to play alongside.
“I love playing with Megan in the center because we just gel,” Baran said. “Pete wants a lot of numbers in the box, but we also have to keep our mark going back, and Megan is able to just look at me and I know when I need to get back or push up.”
After retuning from Texas, Idaho will face its third-straight WAC newcomer at Seattle U, followed by a home stand with San Jose State and Utah State on Oct. 11 and 14.
Madison McCord can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org