TWU freshman Alisa Velasquez noticed something about Northwestern Oklahoma State goalkeeper Briana Legaspi in warm-ups that she was hoping she could exploit in Sunday’s third and final home game of the week for the Pioneers.
She saw Legaspi jumping to make saves as the Rangers (2-5-0) took shooting practice, but it was Legaspi’s lack of commitment to her jump that Velasquez felt her team could capitalize on if its shots were accurate.
In the 15th minute, Velasquez jumped on the opportunity as she stepped into the center of the box and sent a rising shot over the Rangers’ keeper and just under the crossbar to give the Pioneers a 2-0 lead on their way to a 6-0 victory to even their record at 3-3-1.
“[Kayla] Gorney passed me the ball and I turned and shot over the keeper,” Velasquez said. “I saw her during warm-up, but she wasn’t jumping. She was, but it wasn’t high enough, so I took that into consideration when I shot it. I tried to get a read on her and tried to read the game.”
Velasquez also had a read on the Rangers’ defense, setting up the first and third goal for the Pioneers as she drew the defense to her and got her teammates involved with her crisp passing.
“It feels amazing just to be with my team and finally connect,” Velasquez said. “It’s been kind of rough in the beginning [of the season], but it’s finally coming together and I’m really happy about that. Everyone was putting in 110 percent effort and that’s what made the difference.”
TWU opened the scoring on junior forward Emily Davila’s goal in the 12th minute as she took Velasquez’s pass on a well-timed run, while barely staying onside, and chipped a shot over the Legaspi and inside the right post.
Head coach Babak Abouzar wasn’t pleased with his team’s slow start, but once Davila got the team on the board, the rest of the goals kept coming.
“We were sluggish the first five minutes, but [then] we scored a goal,” Abouzar said. “There’s a saying, ‘Goals follow goals,’ and they just happened for us. For us to get four in the first half is a credit to them. They pressured high everywhere on the field, caused problems for the other team and we finished those chances.”
Velasquez found freshman Gabrielle Larson in the 33rd minute on a similar passing play as Larson followed suit by also deftly chipping it over Legaspi to give the Pioneers a 3-0 lead.
“It’s all about placement and them making that decision of, ‘Do I need to go for power, or do I need to go for accuracy?’” Abouzar said. “I think the girls did a good job of distinguishing between the two and when they needed to slide that ball through.”
With seconds left in the first half, the Pioneers added a fourth goal as freshman defender Brooke Hill’s free kick found freshman Hailey Faul, who ripped a shot that hit the crossbar and dropped down to junior forward Candice Davies, who was waiting at the goal line for the easy tap to send TWU into the half on a high note.
With several Pioneers getting in on the scoring action, Abouzar had a message for the players slated to start the second half.
“I told them at break that this is your moment to show us that you deserved to play more and that it was all on them,” Abouzar said. “I told them that we weren’t in the business of trying to demoralize the other team and score a lot of goals. I told them the way this season has been going, and us not being able to finish, it’s something we need to work on.”
TWU added two second-half goals as Hill’s laser from 40 yards out found the back of the net in the 68th minute for her first goal of the season.
Freshman forward Tori Crook also got her first of the season in the 84th minute as sophomore Lauren Smith’s shot hit the left post and rocketed back out to Crook, who found the ball in her feet and put it past the oncoming Rangers’ keeper who came out to challenge.
With the Pioneers going 2-0-1 in the home stand and a matchup with Dallas Baptist University on Tuesday acting as the last stop before they open Lone Star Conference play against West Texas A&M on Friday, Abouzar hopes his team can apply their success to this week’s play.
“As much as we would have liked to have won Friday, it’s good to say that we’ve gone three games at home unbeaten,” Abouzar said. “We are playing a quality team in DBU that’s always a big game for us with recruiting purposes. Conference starts on Friday and everything is about momentum.
“The season is always a roller coaster. You’re on your highs and your lows and the hard part is trying to stay on your highs. We are really looking forward to Tuesday to see if we can stay on that high and play consistent, and hopefully be able to carry that to our conference game this weekend.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.