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Soccer: Pioneers get first league victory

Profile image for By Patrick Hayslip / Staff Writer
By Patrick Hayslip / Staff Writer

After a scoreless first half on Sunday, TWU’s recently refined defensive back line had proven it could handle the Lone Star Conference-leading Angelo State Rambelles, but the Pioneers’ offense hadn’t been able to piggyback off of its defense’s success.

Despite falling behind when they allowed an own goal off an Angelo State corner kick nearly 10 minutes into the second half, the Pioneers came alive with an answering goal five minutes later and the go-ahead goal with 9:08 remaining to earn their first LSC victory, 2-1.

“We have three really good hard-nosed defenders in Sara Deeb, Brooke Hill and Erin Bolinger,” TWU head coach Babak Abouzar said. “We started adding another player in the midfield, and we felt like those three plus our keeper could manage the two forwards. One was a penalty kick and one was a corner kick. That just shows how hard it is to get past those defenders. It’s put more strain on them because they have more ground to cover, but I think we showed today we could get the result.”

The Rambelles (6-3-1, 2-1-0 LSC) broke the scoreless tie in the 54th minute, when Brittany Martinez bent her corner kick into the top-right corner of the goal. A TWU defender nearly cleared the ball with her bicycle kick, but the ball had already crossed the line.

From there, the Pioneers kept chipping away at Angelo State’s defense, earning three corner kicks and firing five of their total seven shots in the second half.

Freshman Gabrielle Larson evened the score, as freshman Tori Crook’s corner kick found her streaking down the middle of the box. Larson found the bottom-left corner of the goal as her shot clanged in off a sliding Angelo State defender and goalkeeper.

With the game tied, the Pioneers (4-6-2, 1-2-1) didn’t relinquish their pressure.

With less than seven minutes to go, junior forward Emily Davila recaptured a free kick outside, dribbled, turned back away from goal, spun and eventually sent a low pass through the box toward the right post to the oncoming sophomore defender Haleigh Wanzer, who was playing forward in the Pioneers’ new defensive alignment.

Wanzer found Davila’s dart of a pass and squeezed it past a diving Rambelles defender and an out-of-position keeper for the game-clinching goal.

“I think as a defender, you work so hard at the back, but coming up at the forward I just worked really hard trying to get the result,” Wanzer said. “You get in the zone and you see the ball. The players around you disappear and you just go after it. The defense never gave up. Everybody worked really hard.”

With Wanzer moving to the midfield to help secure more scoring chances, she was impressed by her fellow defenders’ acceptance of a greater responsibility.

“Obviously we want to attack and score, but winning comes down to how you defend as a team, and our back three [defenders] really kept us in the game and worked hard to tackle everybody to not give them any shots or chances.”

After falling to LSC rival Midwestern State 1-0 on Friday, Abouzar was encouraged with his team’s fight and response on Sunday.

“It's always good to get that first conference win out of the way,” Abouzar said. “Everybody in our conference knows that it’s going to be tough. All of our games have either been tied or decided by one goal, and it just comes down to who’s going to play and who’s not going to give up down 1-0. Angelo State is one of the better defensive teams in our conference and our girls just kept fighting.”

PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.