NACOGDOCHES, Texas – In front of a packed house of 2,413 fans, the Stephen F. Austin women's soccer team delivered on their preseason selection by defeating Central Arkansas 3-0 to claim at least a share of their unprecedented fourth consecutive Southland Conference regular season title on Friday night at the SFA Soccer Field.
SFA (13-2-1, 9-0 SLC), with the defeat of the Sugar Bears (5-9-2, 1-6-1 SLC), claimed the top seed for this season's SLC Tournament and picked up its 11th straight victory to tie the 2005 Ladyjack team for the program's second longest win streak with two games remaining in the regular season. The Ladyjacks will become outright conference champions with their next win or tie.
“It's such a special moment,” head coach Wally Crittenden said. “We had a great crowd here tonight and our players competed. Central Arkansas was a fantastic test. It was a great game, specifically in the first half. As our players settled in and began to wear off that nervous energy that they had knowing what was at stake, they settled down and played some really good soccer going into the second half. Just to be able to do this as part of homecoming weekend with the bonfire getting ready to fire up and having all of our alumni here in town is just so special.
“I think we had some really good, dangerous attacks in the first half. It was a matter of quality in the final 10 yards or so. That's the main thing we talked about – just making sure our quality improved, making sure we kept our composure in the box the same way we would keep our composure anywhere else on the field. We all understand that there's a finishing mentality that has to be present and no doubt it was. I was very proud how they responded, and ultimately it was a good, well-rounded performance with very high execution in the second half.”
After both teams failed to register a shot on goal in the first half, UCA's Shelby Wilson forced the first save by senior Morgan Glick (11-2-1) in the 51st minute. Freshman Hanna Barker then recorded the first for the Ladyjacks 1:43 later, as the momentum swung in SFA's favor.
Sophomore Rachel Owens scored the eventual game-winner in the 53rd minute, finishing a cross from senior Chelsea Raymond within close proximity of the net. For a third straight match the Ladyjacks capitalized on the energy to quickly score again, as senior Zuri Prince made a move down the right side for a strike just 29 seconds after Owens' goal. The goal was the first of the season for Owens, while Prince's notched her eighth to tie Raymond for the team-lead.
Sophomore Jasmine White then capped off the match with her third goal of the season in the 89th minute, putting in a deflected penalty kick opportunity.
SFA will close out the regular season with two home matches next weekend. The Ladyjacks will host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for “Senior Night” on Halloween, before wrapping up with Incarnate Word on Sunday, Nov. 2. Seniors Megan Dunnigan, Morgan Glick, Christie Hinojosa, Zuri Prince, Chelsea Raymond and Christa Robinson, will be recognized before Friday's match.