The University of Central Arkansas women’s soccer team had to wait nearly a month to step back out on the field to face an opponent. On April 5 the Sugar Bears toppled the Lady Bison of Harding University 5-0 at the Bill Stephens Track and Soccer Complex.
Head coach Jeremy Bishop was pleased after his team’s convincing win, and credits the team’s commitment to the good spring season.
“The spring is all about individual improvement,” Bishop said. “I think we’re seeing a lot of that, and it’s showing in this team.”
The Sugar Bears started the game furiously, scoring just 65 seconds into the match. A botched clearance from the Lady Bison inside of the box fell to sophomore midfielder Jessica Pantuso who rifled home the game’s opening goal and what proved to be the winning goal.
Roughly ten minutes later, sophomore striker Dayna Mounie added the second goal of the game in emphatic fashion after a good piece of individual play on the sideline to put herself in a scoring position.
“I cut the ball around the corner and separated myself from the defender and dribbled towards the goal,” Mounie said. “Once I saw my opening in the goal I shot it and it struck in the top corner.”
The Lady Bison never really looked threatening in the first half, never giving freshman goalkeeper Lauren Mercuri much work to do. The half ended 2-0 in favor of UCA.
After halftime, Bishop began to bring fresh faces and legs into the game, but that didn’t stop the Sugar Bears from scoring. Just 10 minutes later, UCA added a third goal.
Freshman forward Ashley Smith added that third goal of the game after a nice bit of combination play and quick passes that saw Pantuso put Smith into the box for her to score. Smith calmly tucked the ball into the net with the onrushing goalkeeper drawing near.
The fourth goal came midway through the second half and this time it was Smith playing provider. Smith sent sophomore midfielder Alex Moore into the box to score as the goalkeeper tried to close down the angle.
The Lady Bison began to appear more threatening in the last 15 minutes of the game, creating a few half chances inside UCA’s defensive third. Sophomore goalkeeper Anna Hughes was not phased by the attacks, snuffing out several chances and began more possession for the Sugar Bears.
Ten minutes from the end of the game, the fifth and final goal was scored courtesy of reigning Southland Conference Freshman of the Year, Camille Bassett. The freshman forward from California calmly scored from 18 yards away after junior midfielder
Allie Coleman played a beautiful through-ball to set up the prolific scorer.
Defense has been a key focal point this spring season for the Sugar Bears and Bishop has high praises for the team’s defensive displays.
“I guess out of the four 11v11 games we’ve played this spring season we’ve got three shutouts,” Bishop said. “We’ve been doing great on the defensive side of the ball. Our keepers have been solid and Stacia [Carroll] and Allie [Moroney] have been doing a pretty good job of organizing things in the back.”
Sophomore defender Kelsey Johnson, who helped the team earn the shutout against Harding, felt that the team’s defense has been key to the team’s success this spring.
“It is nice not getting a goal scored on you,” Johnson said. “The key to winning games is getting those shutouts, that’s what good teams do.”
Johnson also sees the spring as just a stepping stone for the fall season.
“The spring season is just the beginning. A lot of freshmen are coming in,” Johnson said. “This is where everyone comes together and gets stronger and faster. The spring is where everyone puts in effort and commits and it is showing this spring.”
With the competitive spring season concluded for the team, the Sugar Bears will play their annual alumni game on April 16.
This article originally appeared in the April 13 print edition of The Echo.
image via Hunter Sanders