Women's Soccer Lions still hungry
Coach Fortner answers 8 questions
SAGU plays at home at noon in Thursday regional
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- In seasons that do not produce winning records, it is common for players to be glad when the final game is played. Sharing a sort of collective sigh of relief.
That was not the spirit experienced by the women’s soccer team at Southwestern Assemblies of God University this fall.
Playing under new head coach Mandy Fortner , an All-American at Dallas Baptist University, the squad steadily elevated their progress. The results didn’t often translate into W’s in the victory column. They did, however, have a literal, strong feel to the product. Think of what the chemical element the ‘W’ symbolizes (see below).
Coach Fortner’s Lady Lions wrapped up the regular season on October 29 with their third shutout of the fall, blanking Huston-Tillotson University in a 1-0 verdict. The team improved from 1-15-1 in 2010 to 3-13. After scoring only seven goals and yielding 58 last year, the Purple Pride netted 13 goals and allowed 48.
The team was moving in the right direction and it was reflected in their positive outlook.
SAGU then entered the National Christian College Athletic Association’s Central Regional, which was originally to be hosted by Dallas Baptist. Their team, the Lady Patriots, won the Heartland Conference and has advanced with two wins in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
The region tourney was shifted to Southwestern, meaning the Lady Lions, the fifth seed in the 6-team field, will play again on their home turf at Pride Park.
Southwestern will face Central Baptist College (Ark) (7-9-0) on Thursday, November 17, at noon. The Lady Mustangs edged SAGU, 2-1, on Labor Day.
Coach Fortner shared her thoughts on the team and their season following the Tillotson game.
Q1: Your team played hard for you, all the way until the end of the regular season. What did that show about them?
Coach Mandy Fortner: We have had great attitudes all season. No matter the score, the team worked hard and tried to improve. They know they’re advancing. Plus, the girls have grown so much closer as a team, on and off the field.
Q2 : Following the last game, they shook hands with the players from Tillotson, and then raced to mob you. What did they say to you as their coach?
CM: (As they approached) I put my hands in the air and they knew it was time for a group hug. They were so excited to get the win and I was proud of them for holding them scoreless. They worked the ball around on offense very well. They had applied our practices to the game.
I am very close to the girls and we have a very special relationship… something that has made this year extraordinary.
Q3: What was the strategy going into the last game?
CMF: We wanted to work on the possession game, controlling midfield, and then taking some chances outside of the (penalty) box. We had about 20 shots but finished with just one (goal). It could have been better but they did what I asked and kept putting shots at the net.
Q4 : The energy rush the team had from the opening minutes kept the Lady Rams on their heels. What was the key to keeping the pressure on?
CMF: Dani (Daniela) Garcia was up top, helping to apply the pressure. Noelle (Pugliese) moved to the middle. She did a wonderful job of switching the point of attack. The emotions of the seniors’ last home game helped bring a little more intensity to the match.
Q5: Describe the winning goal by Natalie Pena?
CMF: Noelle tried a shot and it deflected off a defender to Amy (Lambdin). She then crossed it to Penny (Pena), who was in front of the goal. She trapped it and volleyed it past the goalkeeper. It was a beautiful goal!
Q6: The defense pitched their third shutout. Who made plays to thwart HTU?
CMF: Gloria (Lozano) played outstanding on defense. She shutdown most of their attacks and kept her composure throughout the game.
Q7: Last year the team had a minus 51 goal differential. This year that figure was sliced to -35. What area of play showed the most improvement this fall?
CMF: Well, we had much more of an attack this year. Our defense did struggle. But the team played much more organized, composed and aggressive. We distributed the ball much better than previously.
Q8: The Lady Lions had a 2-1 lead in the second half of their next to last game in New Mexico (vs. University of the Southwest), before losing 3-2. Combined with the effort in the finale, the squad appears hungry to be playing more games. Care to comment?
CMF: The team is definitely still making progress. The last week of practice was very intense and effective. That’s a good sign of their morale.
We played very sloppy last weekend (vs. USW) and, unfortunately, we lost a very winnable game. Prior to that we had played very well against UT-Brownsville and Our Lady of the Lake, a pair of good teams.
*W represents tungsten steel, or wolfram