After scoring just two goals in their previous three games, the TWU Pioneers broke out of their offensive shell Wednesday with a 3-1 victory over East Central in their home opener.
The Pioneers (2-3) got goals from sophomore defender Erin Bolinger in the 12th minute and junior forward Emily Davila in the 36th minute to take a 2-0 halftime lead. TWU put the game out of reach on freshman forward Hailey Faul’s goal in the 71st minute.
The Lady Tigers (0-5) ended the Pioneers’ shutout bid with a goal in the 86th minute.
TWU had been hindered this season by a lack of focus coming out of halftime, but the Pioneer defense locked down on ECU to open the second half.
“In the past few games we’ve been giving up goals in the second half, and we told ourselves we weren’t going to do that anymore,” TWU forward Tori Crook said. “We just had to come out hard from the beginning and get on the scoreboard from the start. Everyone came out with a lot of intensity and it really showed.”
With TWU drawing a corner kick to set up its first goal, Pioneers coach Babak Abouzar yelled “Go Lou and go Erin.”
Lauren “Lou” Smith and Bolinger snuck away from their defenders at the left post and curled around the top of the box. Bolinger jumped and got a header on Crook’s high corner cross, and she buried it for a 1-0 lead.
“We work on corners a lot, and I’ve always taken them on most of the teams I’ve played on,” Crook said. “We’ve never had that much success with them. This team is great on finishing. I think it’s one of our strong points. Erin had an amazing header and she almost had the second one. It was a great finish. I think we just don’t give up and we push extra hard to get in front of the defender and get to the ball.”
The second goal of the night saw TWU forward Alisa Vasquez draw two defenders to her at the top of the box before she shuffled a pass to Davila, who easily deposited the ball into the gaping net.
“[Vasquez] was very unselfish and played the ball to Emily,” Abouzar said. “I credit her, because you don’t really see a lot of freshmen lay that ball off, and I credit Emily for following the play and not giving up.
“It was great to have a 2-0 lead going into the second half, but we knew that the game was far from over and that we had to weather the storm.”
The Pioneers extended their lead to 3-0 midway through the second half on Faul’s bending kick from the left side of the box into the top-right corner of the goal.
With TWU up 3-0, Abouzar was able to give some minutes to his reserves, which he thinks will be valuable this week with matchups against Harding at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Northwestern Oklahoma State at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
“I was happy for the girls to get a taste for what it’s like playing at home under the lights, plus it was good for our starters to get that rest with us playing three games in five days,” Abouzar said. “It was a two-way win, and hopefully down the line, when we have our conference games, those subs will know what to expect.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.