Sarah Van Buskirk
In the Leopards’ first home game of the 2022 regular season, the women’s soccer team shutout the Whitworth Pirates, 3-0, Sept. 1 leaving their mark in hopes to continue a successful season.
Head coach Lauryn Pehanich said that the players this year are adaptable and since they had not seen how Whitworth plays, they found themselves putting the pieces together in the first half.
“I felt we did a really good job of responding properly to how they were playing and being able to finalize the chances we had in the second half, after a really good halftime conversation,” Pehanich said.
The Leopards played an aggressive game on both sides of the field. Their magnetic defense allowed the Pirates many free kicks, however, their determination on the attacking side paid off when the ball hit the back of the net.
Time of possession was even for both teams but the Leopards were more active in finishing their opportunities with 23 shots and 15 shots on goal. The Pirates only managed three shots with one on target.
After both teams came back from the locker room and were ready to play the final 45 minutes, points started appearing on the scoreboard.
Five minutes in, sophomore midfielder Alyssa Moran had a breakaway on the advancing side of the field but was stopped by the Pirates’ defense and left the ball all alone on the 30-yard line. Sophomore midfielder Ana Preciado took action and swept the ball toward the goal which skimmed the goalie’s fingertips and glided down the back of the net. The Leopards led 1-0.
“The intensity was very high” Preciado said. “We had to battle all 90 minutes. Everyone we needed was on the sideline and in the crowd, we were all into the game.”
About six minutes later the Leopards gained dominance of their attacking side again and sophomore forward Antonia Escobar positioned herself inches from the goal line while the ball was bouncing around in the penalty box. Escobar headed the ball right over the goalie’s head and after a lively celebration from the Leopards, it confirmed that they had extended their lead to 2-0.
Sophomore goalkeeper Mckenzie Maggiore said she always goes into games expecting that she is going to have a lot to do but Whitworth left her bored.
“It felt really good to have only had to make one save,” Maggiore said. “That just shows that our whole team did a really good job defending together.”
Tension started to rise in Pirate waters and they fired two back-to-back shots over the goal with intention of tightening the score. The Leopards and the Pirates kept their aggression high and many free kicks were given out.
As the time was running out, a win for the Leopards seemed more definite. With four minutes left, a long throw-in from the Leopards dropped in front of the goal and senior midfielder Michelle Benavides got a piece of the ball to finalize the home opener victory, 3-0.
“We adjusted really well and everyone knew their role and what they had to do,” Benavides said. “Our game plan was to win and we ended up carrying that out.”
They followed the win with a defeat of the Lewis and Clark Pioneers Saturday morning, 2-0, with early first half goals and a strong defensive line.
The Leopards continued their hot streak against the Lewis and Clark Pioneers, 2-0, Saturday, and the Carleton Knights, 3-1, Monday for a Labor Day win. They will host Willamette on Friday at 7 p.m. for their last non-conference game until Southern California Intercollegiate Conference play begins.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at email@example.com.