With a trip to the Lone Star Conference tournament within their grasp, the TWU Pioneers layered West Texas A&M with a multitude of shots and chances in the final 10 minutes of Sunday’s game, but they couldn’t recover enough from a two-goal deficit and fell 2-1 at home to wrap up the regular season.
“We had the chances and I know that I’ve said that all year long, but the last 10 minutes, it was opportunity after opportunity after opportunity and that’s all you can really ask for,” TWU head coach Babak Abouzar said. “You can’t be upset because they didn’t work hard. We were down 2-0, and you wouldn’t have thought we were down 2-0. With this being such a young team, as a coaching staff, we know the potential of where we can go if the girls buy into to what we can do.”
The Pioneers’ defense got themselves into trouble early in the first half after failing to clear a throw-in, and the ball found its way to Lady Buffs defender Berklee Watson. Watson had pinched into the box and was able to stuff it home past sophomore goalkeeper Ariana Morrison, who had trouble finding the ball in the mess in front.
TWU sophomore defender Erin Bolinger found a breakaway midway through the second half as she outraced two West Texas defenders. She dribbled across the box and rifled a low shot to the bottom right of the goal, but goalkeeper Yvette Bedoy got a hand on it with a dive and a defender tracked back to keep the ball out.
Just over a minute later, West Texas junior Jessie Thomas took a pass from Watson and chipped it past the oncoming Morrison for a 2-0 lead.
In forcing West Texas to make five second-half saves, the Pioneers (5-11-2, 2-7-1 Lone Star Conference) were not going to finish quietly as freshman Gabrielle Larson found junior forward Emily Davila in front of the goal in the 83rd minute. After her first chance rebounded out and Larson found her up in the box again, Davila slipped it into the gaping net with Bedoy playing the middle TWU attacker.
“I think as soon as that second goal hit us, it was a wake-up call for our whole team, not just the forwards,” Abouzar said. “I just wished [the comeback] would have happened earlier, and I hate that us being a goal or two down triggered it. We started doing good things and started attacking more. We’re only losing two starters (senior midfielder Mariel Parra and senior defender Tareyn Blanton). If we can continue to improve on that, I think we’ll be a hard team to play against.”
With two minutes left, freshman defender Tatianna Hernandez had a chance at a header on a late corner kick, but it sailed high over the crossbar.
A minute later, Parra fought to get another header on goal off a corner, but that chance was again stopped by Bedoy and that helped send West Texas A&M (5-8-5, 3-5-2) to the conference tournament.
Despite the failed comeback attempt, Abouzar has confidence in what he’s seen from this year’s team heading into next season and hopes they’ll take something from the close finish.
“They’re young, and I hope they remember this feeling of how good it is to play for something at the end of this season but at the same time come up short, so that when we’re training in the spring and in the weight room, they’ll have something that pushes them,” Abouzar said.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.