UCA’s women’s soccer team (7-11-1, 4-6-1 SLC) clinched a spot in the Southland Conference Tournament after a 3-1 victory against the Northwestern State University Lady Demons on Oct. 30 in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
After the Nicholls State University Colonels lost 2-1 to the Southeastern Louisiana Lady Lions earlier that day, the Bears knew that defeating the Lady Demons would secure them a spot in the tournament.
Sophomore defender Stacia Carroll said the win was the only thing on the Bears’ minds.
“It was all up to us to put everything we had into this game and make it to the conference tournament,” she said. “We came out super energetic and ready to fight for what we thought should have been ours earlier in the season.”
Freshman forward Camille Bassett said after a six-game losing streak, the team’s attitude had taken a hit.
“However, when we found out that we had one last chance to make it to our conference tournament if we won, we all became very encouraging and positive toward one another,” she said. “We were all so supportive, energetic and positive, and I don’t think those characteristics of our team ceased throughout the whole 90 minutes.”
UCA started the scoring against the Lady Demons in the eighth minute, when junior midfielder/forward Shelby Wilson made a long pass to freshman midfielder/forward Ashley Smith, who chipped it over the Northwestern State goalkeeper.
Bassett said after the goal, the team’s positivity and energy increased.
“I think that helped us hold the game where we wanted to and even get a few more goals,” she said.
The Bears added to their lead in the 23rd minute with a wide pass from midfield from sophomore midfielder Alex Moore to Bassett, who sent the ball into the net, bringing the score to 2-0.
The Lady Demons made their rebuttal in the 52nd minute, with UCA goalkeeper sophomore Anna Hughes blocking junior midfielder Camila Ardila’s shot, then sophomore defender Sage Leffew knocking in the rebound.
Bassett secured the Bears’ victory in the 61st minute after Smith stole the ball and sent it down the field to Bassett, who won the one-on-one with NSU goalkeeper sophomore Alex Latham to bring the score to 3-1.
Even when the Bears were two goals ahead, Carroll said the team didn’t quit.
“I knew that there wasn’t enough time for them to score that many goals, but anything can happen,” she said. “There was no way that we could think that we had it in the bag and let them score easy goals on us. We needed to play the full 90 minutes.”
UCA outshot Northwestern 16 to 13 for the night, with eight and four shots on goal, respectively.
Bassett led the offense firing six shots, with three on goal. Smith and Wilson both added three shots, with two of Smith’s and one of Wilson’s on goal. Junior midfielder/forward Kate Koch and junior midfielder Allie Coleman both added on shot on goal.
Hughes made three saves in the net for the Bears, allowing one goal. Latham made three saves and allowed one goal for the Lady Demons, while senior goalkeeper Brooke Bourbonais made two saves and allowed two goals.
While Carroll said the teams were evenly matched, she said the Bears’ energy and hard work set them apart from the Lady Demons.
Bassett said it was a fast-paced and physical game.
“However, we struck with our game plan of winning and ended up with the result we wanted,” she said.
The win marks the Bears’ second appearance in the Southland Conference Tournament, after losing in the opening round to Southern Louisiana in 2013.
As the team heads to the Southland Conference Tournament, Bassett said it could check off one of its goals for the season.
“We have proved to the other teams that we are able to stay up in the standings right next to everybody else,” Bassett said.
UCA will host the tournament Nov. 5-8 at the Bill Stephens Soccer Complex, with the championship game at 1:05 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
The Bears at sixth seed will face the No. 3 seed Sam Houston State Bearkats at 7 p.m. Nov. 5.
The winner will face the No. 2 Houston Baptist Huskies at 7 p.m. Nov. 6.
This article appeared in the Nov. 4, 2015 print edition of The Echo.
image via ucasports.com