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The Weber State University soccer team fought a tough battle against the Idaho State University Bengals on Saturday afternoon and was able to walk away with a 1-0 home-game win.
The Wildcats entered the game with half of the Big Sky Conference season behind them as they faced conference rival ISU.
The first half of the match proved to be a tough defensive effort from both teams. The Wildcats appeared to have most of the offensive control of the ball during the first 45 minutes of play, and were able keep the ball away from their side for the majority of the time.
The score read 0-0 at the end of the half, with neither team having been able to seize an opportunity to put the ball in the net. The Wildcats finished the first period with three total shots each from players Abbey Kennedy, Stacy Bair and Ari Aki. The only shot on goal for WSU came from Aki. ISU finished the half with five total shots taken, with three shots on goal. None, however, were able to make it into the goal, due to three saves from WSU goalkeeper Ryann Waldman.
The second half of play began with most of the ball control going to ISU. The Wildcats showed solid defense, but struggled to get the ball to cross the half toward the ISU goal. This changed, however, as the second half passed its midpoint and the Wildcats found control of the ball again.
An intense moment came with 28 minutes left in the second half when an ISU player came alone with a sprint down an open field toward the WSU goal. A shot was fired and the ball was deflected away from the goal due to a diving save from Waldman.
The first goal of the match came with 15 minutes left in the second half. The Wildcats capitalized on a free kick and assist from freshman Brecken Holbrook. The kick was sent toward the box at the ISU goal and received by WSU freshman Mackenzie Harrison, who managed to get the ball out in front of defenders to shoot the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal.
“We worked on it in practice this week where we (line up) further back,” said Harrison on the free kick leading up to the goal. “So I started further back like we did in practice, and I was just there at the perfect time. We just had to stay composed. We had to just settle down and focus on what we wanted to do.”
WSU showed tight defense that the Bengals couldn’t overtake to finish the last 10 minutes of the half and the match. With a score of 1-0 and most of the ball control going to the Wildcats, the momentum of the game was sealed for WSU after a yellow card was issued toward a Bengal player after she committed a foul of unnecessary contact toward a Wildcat with three minutes left to play. Time ran out, and the Wildcats walked away with the 1-0 win at home.
“I felt like during the first half, we had more moments where we really knocked it around a lot, but the final third seemed like it kind of fell apart,” Aki said. “We couldn’t quite get that last shot or that last play that we needed to . . . But then, in the second half, we had a lot more of a bite to our game. I think we just came out and we all just kind of threw it around. . . . I almost thought that we might have kept the ball better possessed in the first half, but in the second half we made up for that by going hard. We did make a lot more balls that were dangerous (to ISU) rather than just playing around.”
The win gives WSU a record of 5-9-0 overall with a 3-2-0 for Big Sky Conference play.
“I thought that there were certainly pieces of the game where we didn’t really do what we wanted to and that Idaho State dictated pieces of the game,” said Head Coach Tim Crompton. “When we were dictating the tempo, finding each other’s feet and passing the ball, then I thought that we played the way we wanted to play.”
The Wildcats will play two away matches this weekend at Sacramento State University on Friday and Portland State University on Sunday. Following these matches, WSU will travel back to Ogden for two final conference matches.