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Perla Acosta Scores Big Goal for SAGU

WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- It was an all-too familiar ending for the women's soccer team at Southwestern Assemblies of God University. For the fourth time this fall they were felled by a late goal, this time a 2-1 setback against Southwestern Christian University (Ok).

The Lady Lions previously had dropped 1-0 games to Central Baptist College (Ark), Central Christian College (Ks) and Bethany College (Okla). Central scored in overtime in the season opener. CCC got a fluke goal when an overpass didn't bounce, but skirted low and into the net. Last Saturday the Swedes tallied with only five minutes remaining. Tuesday it was a soft goal just 10 minutes away from the final horn in a tie game.

The effort by SAGU was much better than the previous game, and there were a number of golden scoring opportunities that just missed.

Coach Grant Remains Optimistic

"We're improving," said a satisfied Head Coach Tim Grant after meeting with the team. "I'm pleased with the progress we're making. And we continue to work every day in practice. We have just one more game to play before we go into our conference schedule. We're getting better."

He asked his assistants Mandy Fortner and Nathan Horton what they would add to his comments. Fortner said it was the "best we've played."

The Lady Lions, who were playing in their brand new home whites, did move the ball into attacking zones more often, and fired more quality shots on goal. "Particularly Perla and Noelle," pointed out Coach Fortner.

She was referring to Perla Acosta (Houston, Tx / Klein Forest HS) and Noelle Pugliese (Lee's Summit, Mo / Lee's Summit North HS), a pair of freshman midfielders.

Acosta had a busy afternoon, parlaying a number of passes into bids to score. With 18 minutes left in a scoreless first half, her kick from 6 yards out was snared by Lady Eagles goalie Amy Witt.

Following a SCU goal (Haley Boettler, assisted by Meagan Shelton) with 6:08 left in the half, Acosta drilled a shot from 7 yards away that got past Witt on the right side, but the ball bounced solidly off the crossbar. Pugliese (pronounced pug-LEES) took a cross from the 5'3 Acosta and fired from straightaway center, only to be denied by Witt.

The Equalizer: Acosta's Goal

Team Lioness broke their scoring draught when Madison Wells (Farmer's Branch, Tx / R.L. Turner HS) sent a left cross to Acosta in the goal mouth, and the energetic Acosta knew what to do. She one-timed the assist in a crowd, elevating a kick (see picture of the actual kick) that sailed over the goalie. It lifted the SAGU bench and a sparse crowd into loud cheers with 23:29 to go.

Nicole Martinez (Cortez, Colo / Montezuma HS) who received increased minutes on the pitch, had a chance from the left with 12:30 to play, but couldn't get enough foot on the ball to beat the keeper. She had a fortuitous moment a minute later. Wells played a thigh-high ball off of her leg within 10 feet of the goal, ricocheting to her right to Martinez. With Witt approaching, she footed the ball to the right post. It went just wide. The whole left side of the net was open.

"I thought I could beat the goalie inside the right post," she said over dinner afterwards. "I barely missed it." As for Wells, she only wanted to say one thing; "I'm so tired of losing. Tired. Tired. Tired of losing. We're so close."

Defense Yields Soft Goal

The Eagles, 0-6-1 so far in 2010 and having scored just twice in that span, finally got what they were hungry for. Allie McIntosh and Erin Fleharty passed the ball back and forth a couple of times while SAGU defenders gave them some room. Too much room. Fleharty (FLEE-harty) caught the defense standing flatfooted when she lifted a high, looping shot from 12 yards out that got over senior goalie Tracy Griffin (Wylie, Tx / Wylie HS), who had little chance to make a play.

SAGU had a few more occasions to score, but didn't capitalize on the breaks during the frenzied final minutes. Daniela Garcia (Tucson, Az / Rio Rico HS), who returned after three weeks off from a sprained ankle, powered a long corner kick, but the play was well defended. On one of two sideline rushes by Kerri Guinn (Nevada, Tx / Community HS), she fired a shot from 25 yards out with 2:31 on the clock. Had she noticed, Natalie Horton (Corsicana, Tx / Corsicana HS) was open to her left, coursing down the middle.

Opposing Coach:  "It Feels Good!"

Interviewed immediately following the contest, Southwestern Christian Head Coach Greg Andrews was beaming. "This is our first win of the season. This is the first year of our existence, and it feels good! Getting a win was long overdue," he said. "We've had three or four games that we should've come out on top. We outshot or outplayed teams, yet we didn't finish plays."

"This game could've gone either way," he added, when responding to a question about SAGU's near goals. "But I was especially pleased with two of our strongest attackers. Haley Boettler (pronounced like butler) and Fleharty. Their goals should really boost their confidence. And we'll need it too. We play six games over ten days."

Final Statistics

By holding an 8-6 edge in shots during the second half, SCU owned the smallest of margins, 15-14, during the game. There were few fouls called in the game (3 for each team), as neither squad was very physical. In regards to offsides, SAGU had one, and the Lady Eagles had a three of the game's five cornerkicks. The two teams were very evenly matched. Following the game, SCU's goal differential stood at 4-21 (scored-yielded), compared to SAGU's 3-22.

The Lady Lions did experience two injuries in the second stanza. Pugliese, going for the ball in the box, collided badly with Witt, with the former being hit in the chest and head. Later, Horton was rattled by two defenders as she tried to gain possession of the ball on the left side of the penalty area. Both players were helped to their feet after meeting a sudden impact. They are not expected to miss future games.

Upcoming SAGU Games

SAGU will return to the field on Thursday, September 23, with a road game against the Southwestern Adventist University Lady Knights. The contest will be played in Keene, some 28 miles from Waxahachie. The action starts at 5:00pm. Their campus is located just five miles east of Cleburne, near Highway 67.

The Lady Lions will return home a week from Thursday when they kickoff their nine-game league season in the Red River Athletic Conference. Northwood University (currently 3-2-1), from nearby Cedar Hill, will visit Southwestern Field on September 30. The game will start at 1:00pm.

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