NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The spotlight shone brightly on the senior class of the Stephen F. Austin women's soccer on Friday night in SFA Soccer Field, and the departing class did not disappoint, besting Southeastern Louisiana 3-1 with a superb team effort from upper and underclassmen alike. The win moves SFA to 8-6 (5-2 SLC) on the season and puts them in sole possession of third place in the league table ahead of Sunday's home tilt against Nicholls.
Just like the Beatles of old, the seniors got by with a little help from their friends, as goals from junior Breanna Moore and freshman Sophia Fondren came on either end of a team-leading seventh goal from senior Hanna Barker. The three goals was a season-high for a team that just a year ago scored three or more goals in eight matches.
"On senior night, nobody wants to win more than the underclassmen", said SFA head coach Wally Crittenden. "They want the seniors to go out with a win, which is what every senior wants to do on Senior Day. It took a team effort, it was a good, well-rounded performance from the team. I thought there was about a 15 minute period in the first half where our momentum dipped and kind of swung their way, and I would've liked to see us manage that a little better. They scored a goal as a result of a couple mistakes that we had, and ultimately we need to understand that teams are going to do good things, and we need to weather that storm more cleanly and execute."
As the Lady Lions seemed content to keep bodies back in their own side of the field to open the game, the Ladyjacks took advantage of the passive play to carve up the Lady Lions defense. SFA would register four shots in the opening nine minutes of play, part of a 12-shot effort in the first half alone. It wasn't until the 13th minute that SFA would find the back of the net, and it came in a moment of redemption for forward Breanna Moore, who came into Friday's match still looking for her first tally of the 2017 season.
Moore's goal came in true Ladyjack fashion, as a wonderful combination of three players each contributed a crisp pass that culminated in a charging Moore slotting the ball past SLU goalkeeper Michaela Hawthorn after a quick first touch. Fondren delivered the final pass to record the first of two assists she would notch on the day, to bring her to five on the season.
"We scored a couple great goals", added Crittenden. "That first goal was one of our best goals of the season scored in the run of play, just good quick combinations and a great finish by Breanna. It was good to see us extend the game and impose ourselves in the match, and we'll rest and improve and be ready for Sunday."
In the 30th minute, SLU finally ventured beyond the midfield to take their first attempt of the day at goal, but Allyson Smithcorralled the attempt with ease. Continuing to press as a result of a dip in aggressiveness by the Ladyjacks, the Lady Lions would equalize with a deep strikein the 33rd minute, as SLU leading scorer Maggie Ramsey floated a shot in over top of Smith to tie the game at 1-1. The goal was Ramsey's fourth of the season and the first run of play goal given up by SFA in five matches.
In the 43rd minute, freshman Lauren Prentice nearly sent SFA into half with the lead, as she took a look from 36 yards out for just her first shot of the season. The attempt was incredibly well placed and would have evaded Hawthorn for the go-ahead goal, had it not hit the far upper corner of goal and been knocked away, just inches from a first career goal for the young midfielder. Instead, the teams carried a tie score into the halftime break.
In the 53rd minute, Barker took the matter into her own hands, receiving the ball from Fondren with her back to goal, quickly spinning and firing a left-footed strike past Hawthorn and into the net for what would end up as the game-winner. Having regained the momentum, the Ladyjacks continued to create scoring chances, as Moore nearly doubled her tally in the 56thminute only to see Hawthorn break it up.
Barker would fire off another one of her team-high six shots in the 64th minute, as she got separation from her defender but missed the goal frame on the attempt. Senior Madison Hall would also miss wide of goal on her attempt off a free kick in the 68th minute, and KK McMillan's curveball attempt in the 77th minute was saved by Hawthorn.
Fondren would finally help herself to one of the SFA goals in the 78th minute after having a hand in both the earlier tallies. She found herself with space to shoot from 20 yards out and her shot was strong and true to the left of the keeper for the team's third goal of the night.
All six seniors saw action in the game due to normal substitution rotations, but their impact was felt on both sides of the field on a night in which their collective exploits were recognized in front of the SFA faithful.
"Our rotations and playtimes had nothing to do with Senior night tonight, all those kids have earned the right to play and compete, and I thought they all did a good job tonight", Crittenden explained. "On a secondary note, I am pleased that they were all able to get in and make an impact, but the overall focus is still 'team first'."
Fondren's four points in the contest were a season and career high, and tie her with Hall for second on the team with nine points. Freshman Katelyn Termini also notched an assist on the night, while Barker (6) and Fondren (5) paced the team in shots on the night. SFA outshot the Lady Lions 20-10 in the contest, and each goalkeeper faced nine shots on goal, as Smith finished with eight saves in 90 minutes of action to record the win.
"We've been seeing an improvement in the way we're playing and possessing, our shot totals are high and there are multiple players that are playing well right now and making an impact on the stat sheet", Crittenden concluded.
Stephen F. Austin will now look to capitalize on the victory in their Sunday matinee with Nicholls, who drew with Sam Houston State in a scoreless affair Friday night. Kick off for that contest is set for 1:00 p.m. at SFA Soccer Field.