by Univ. of Idaho Athletics
University of Idaho head women's soccer coach Peter Showler said he wanted to see the Vandals put together a full 90-minute performance. He got his wish on Thursday in a 2-0 win over San Jose State.
Idaho moved to 4-11-1 overall and earned its first Western Athletic Conference victory to move to 1-2-1, while San Jose State fell to 3-10-1 overall and 1-3-0 in the conference.
The first 45 minutes were eerily similar to Idaho's past few games, in which the Vandals were well in control but saw no result on the scoreboard. One shot went off the crossbar, another off the post and three more were saved in one-v-one breaks against SJSU keeper Zoe Makrigiannis, who made 10 stops in the match.
Tied 0-0 at the half but holding a 16-8 shots advantage and a 7-1 edge in corners, Showler said he emphasized to the team that the breakthrough was due.
"We can't have 16 shots and seven corners and not get a goal, so just keep at it. It's coming," Showler said to the team at half. "Every player just played her socks off. It was tremendous."
The score did finally come right at the start of the half. In the 51st minute, sophomore Katie Baran found senior midfielder Megan Lopez sneaking out wide uncovered and Lopez sent in a cross that forward Chelsea Small headed back across the grain for the 1-0 lead at 50:50.
"That was a fantastic ball from Megan," Showler said. "She slid out wide and put a great ball in for Chelsea – and I don't know how many she's scored with her head, but not that many – it was just beautiful."
Lopez said that she and Small talked before the match about getting that offensive breakthrough.
"I was in the right place at the right time, and I picked her (Small) out and I knew she was hungry for it," Lopez said. "She was in the right place and I think she was ready to score."
After another few close calls, Idaho still clung to the 1-0 lead, but sophomore Annie Millard gave the team some breathing room with her first career score at 72:56. After a Vandal corner kick was cleared out, just six minutes after she had subbed in to give Small a breather.
Lopez put a through ball down the middle to spring Millard on the break. Her first shot was saved, but she followed in and cleaned up her own rebound – a team focus during the week at practice – to give the Vandals a 2-0 lead.
"We've had a lot of opportunities coming off second chances that we haven't followed, so Pete has really hammered that point at practice to make sure you follow everything," Millard said.
Showler said he originally planned to put Millard, naturally a midfielder, up top to give Small a break, but the sophomore from Spokane, Wash. (University HS), gave him no reason to pull her off. She finished the game with a career-high four shots, three of which were on goal, in her 23 minutes of play.
"Annie is just going to give you pure determination and she wears her heart on her sleeve," Showler said. "That goal came down to pure determination and it was fantastic. It was exactly what she's capable of and what she deserved."
Idaho held a 24-14 overall edge in shots, but put 12 attempts on frame, compared to just four for SJSU. The Vandals also held a 12-4 advantage in corner kicks.
Senior goalkeeper Liz Boyden tallied four saves in 90 minutes to extend her Idaho record to 15 career shutouts, four of which have come this season. Small notched her 36th goal, 85th point and 15th game-winner on Thursday, all of which are program career records.
Since the match was played on Thursday, Idaho will enjoy the benefit of an extra day of rest before their Sunday match against WAC leader and defending conference champion Utah State (7-2-6, 2-0-2 WAC), which plays at Seattle U on Friday.
"We've got a tough one against Utah State on Sunday," Showler said. "They are at top of the conference for a reason, so it is nice to get that extra day of rest."
Sunday's match is Idaho's annual "Soccer Kicks Cancer" game, as the team will wear special pink uniforms at the match, which kicks off at 1 p.m. (PT) at Guy Wicks Field. A special new promotion this year will be that replica pink Vandal jerseys will be available for auction throughout the day, with proceeds going toward cancer research.
"The month of October is Cancer Awareness Month," Showler said. "It's near and dear to me with my mum passing from cancer. We look to see plenty of people there, because it's a great organization and a great cause. I know the girls really buy into why we do it and it's just an exciting process and we're proud to be a part of it."