Pena, Lady Lions blank Rams
Resilient squad gets off the schneid
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Natalie Pena (Dallas, Tx / Union HS, Tulsa, Ok) scored the only goal of the game early in the second half leading Southwestern Assemblies of God University women’s soccer team to a 1-0 victory over Huston-Tillotson University on Saturday afternoon.
The score ended both the regular season for both teams as well as an 11-game losing streak for the Lady Lions. SAGU wrapped up their 16-game slate with a 3-13 ledger and a 1-8 mark in the Red River Athletic Conference. All three wins were shutouts, twice by freshman goalie Haley Shingleton (Pasadena, Tx / Deer Park HS), once while freshman Brooke Burger (Kenosha, Wisc / Valley Center HS) was in the net.
Tillotson capped their season at 4-13-2 and 2-7 in league action. The series between the teams now stands even at 2-2-1, with the Lions taking two of the last three meetings.
Southwestern dominated the game on a sun-drenched, cool fall afternoon at Pride Park. Controlling the ball, they had a whopping 19-4 advantage in shots, though both teams had three cornerkicks. In a scoreless first half, the Lady Lions owned eight of the match’s nine shots.
Two minutes into the second 45-minute stanza, Fortner’s felines broke through.
Leading scorer Daniela Garcia (Tucson, Az / Rio Rico HS) nearly scored when her shot inside the box drew iron from the goalpost. The ball ricocheted to freshman Amy Lambdin (Stockton, Cal / Elliot Christian). She located Natalie Pena (Dallas, Tx / Union HS, Tulsa, Ok) at the edge of a crowd to her left with a sharp pass.
Pena collected the ball with one foot and then applied the opposite, delivering what would be the only goal the Lady Lions would need. Her teammates celebrated wildly on the pitch and from the bench. It was her third tally on the season, tying Garcia. Three other players have scored twice this year.
The view from up close
“Dani shot it,” recalled Pena (PAIN-ya) of the play that produced the goal. “It bounced back to Amy, who quickly crossed it to me. I was open about three or four yards from the goal line.”
Of the scoring objective, she said she trapped the ball with her left, “then shot it with my right foot to the left side of the net.” The left-right-left might’ve summed up the reveling dance the team did in the moments following.
“I saw them all,” she said, “and Lyndi (redshirt Garrison) cheered the loudest!”
Strategic move aligns Garcia, Pena as catalysts
The opportunity was not happen-chance, as Fortner tweaked the line-up at the break and the results paid off promptly.
“Coach Mandy made an adjustment at the break,” described Penny, as she is known to the team. “She placed me at the top with Dani (Garcia),” giving the close-nit duo a tactical plan for breaking the deadlock.
“Coach believed that Dani and I could make something happen,” she continued. “We just knew this was our game. It was our shot to make it happen, to get a win out of it!”
The defense did their part throughout, led by an active back line of Ashley Nerat (Menomonee Falls, Wisc / Menomonee Falls HS), Victoria Munoz (Granbury, Tx / Granbury HS), Kendall Murders (Bolivar, Mo / Bolivar HS), Jessica Powell (Terrell, Tx / Terrell HS) and especially Gloria Lozano (El Paso, Tx / Faith Christian), who was as active as a heat-seeking missile.
Daniela Ramirez (Waco, Tx / Waco HS) added speed and fresh legs to the defensive backfield in the second half.
Nerat took out Helen Rios on a scoring bid in the 53rd minute, and teamed with Lozano to snuff out Megan Medrano’s chance later in the match.
The Lady Lions had several quality chances to score, including a long drive into the box by Garcia. It ended when the goalie, April Taylor, made a play on the ball at point-blank range. Lambdin sent a low shot that Taylor scooped in the 70th.
Amber Belisle’s (Roseville, Cal / Whitney HS) (pronounced bah-LIE-yul ) attempt near the post was denied by the Rams’ netminder. A final opportunity by Emily Jones (Flagstaff, Az / Flagstaff HS) went awry when her try sailed wide right.
Persevering to the finish
During one stretch of games, Southwestern was shutout six straight times. However, the club continued to play hard for first year head coach Fortner . They scored in three of their final four contests. Against UT-Brownsville (14-2-1), they knotted the score at 1-1 on a blast by Belisle before coming up short on October 15.
The Lady Lions, who lost four times by the slimmest of margins, reduced their goal differential from -51 (7-58) a year ago to -35 (13-48) this autumn.
In fact, the young program has shown development since their winless first year in 2006. During the team’s first three seasons they yielded an average of 90 goals. Under head coach Tim Grant the previous two campaigns and Fortner this year, SAGU has allowed an average of just 50.
Possible post-season play
Southwestern could get into the National Christian College Athletic Association’s Central Regional. This year’s single-elimination event will be hosted at nearby Dallas Baptist University. If SAGU gains entry, they would receive valuable experience and weeks of continued practice. The decision will be reached soon.
The DBU Lady Patriots (13-4-1) just clinched the Heartland Conference championship and may have to miss the regional should they remain alive in the NCAA Division II playoffs.