Sterling College blanks Lady Lions
Garrison bid for equalizer hits crossbar
Freshman netminder Espinoza makes 11 saves
STERLING, Kansas -- Facing a stout opponent who went 13-6 last season was a tall order for the young Southwestern Assemblies of God University women’s soccer team. Add to that, the game was on the road.
The Lady Lions did more than hold their own. They nearly tied Sterling College in spite of being outshot by a 31-7 count. The Warriors tacked on a goal in the 86th minute to close the door for a 2-0 setback for SAGU on Friday afternoon.
Sterling was a nursing a 1-0 lead when the Purple Pride came inches from the equalizer in the second half.
After missing on a few earlier bids to knot the score, the resilient Lady Lions advanced the ball to sophomore Justine Lopez (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS). She uncorked a blast from just outside the box from the right side.
The shot caromed off a defender and was controlled inside the scoring zone by Lyndi Garrison (Hastings, Mich / Thornapple Kellogg HS). Surrounded, she had to pivot and redirect the ball in a flash.
Lyndi finished with a kick that hit the cross bar. It glanced downward toward the goal line and was cleared by an alert defender.
“It was just short of the goal line,” said Head Coach Mandy Fortner. “It would’ve tied things up. In this game, if you’re playing good defense, one big goal can change momentum in a single play.”
Noelle Pugliese (Lee's Summit, Mo / North HS) and Amber Belisle (Roseville, Cal / Whitney HS) each enjoyed the prospects of ripping the nets.
“We failed to capitalize on our opportunities to score,” admitted Fortner. “Noelle had a couple of good shots from outside the box, as did Amber.”
The team played defense by circling their wagons.
Injuries have forced them into a patchwork line-up, and they performed well enough to win. Like the day before against Southwestern College in Winfield, Ks, the Lady Lions started five freshmen.
“We were better organized on the back line than we were on Thursday,” the coach added. “Amy Lambdin (Stockton, Cal / Elliot Christian HS) stepped in to play the role of the back position and did well.”
But it meant the team’s top scorer from 2012 was playing on defense. Against the Lady Warriors, who put 13 shots on goal, the move was warranted.
A different freshman goalie got to start on consecutive days, 5-foot-2 Kathleen Espinosa (Corpus Christi, Tx / Richard King HS) was up to the task. As the last line of defense, the 5-foot-2 Espinosa faced 31 shots and made 11 saves.
“Kathleen had several solid saves,” Fortner pointed out. She allowed just two goals, both of them due to a defender getting beat one-on-one.
The first came a moment after starting centerback; Kaylie Cox (Midlothian, Tx / Midlothian HS), had to leave the pitch.
Sterling cleared the ball up and over the Lions back line. Ashley Burns was fast to the ball, then dribbled in for a breakaway goal. It gave Sterling a 1-0 lead just 40 seconds before intermission.
It was the second game in as many days where SAGU trailed 1-0 at the half by succumbing to a last minute score.
The second goal came in the last five minutes of the contest. The ball was played across the top of the box to an unmarked attacker, Ivonne Herrera, who finished by one-timing the shot.
“Overall, we played with much more structure and with a lot of heart,” summed up the coach. “We were lacking in our attack, but we had to move players around due to new and existing injuries.”
Fortner praised the play of senior Natalie Pena (Dallas, Tx / Tulsa Union HS), who helped control possession as well as providing support at midfield.
“Ashley Nop (Stockton, Cal / Lincoln HS) did a great job of uniting the back line,” she said. It allowed Fortner to interchange defensive players around her.”
Fifteen members of the Pride saw action, seven of them newcomers. SAGU's seven shots were by different players.
Sterling College now leads the series, 4-0.
SAGU plays at home on Wednesday
SAGU (0-2) makes their home debut on the first day of fall classes, Wednesday, September 4. At 1:00pm (CST) they will entertain Johnson & Wales University. The Wildcats (1-1), playing in their inaugural season, are from Denver.