A line of tired faces, unsatisfied and hungry for more time on the pitch walked off the field Sunday afternoon. After 90 minutes and two ten-minute overtimes, the Roadrunner soccer team tied their second game in a row against the University of Idaho Vandals.
The game kicked off at 1 p.m. with the wind ranging at a breezy five to 10 mph. The clouds were abundant enough to supply some shade but sparse enough to remain summer-like, the temperature stayed in the high 70’s and low 80’s, it was the perfect day for kicking the ball around.
For the Roadrunners this day this held a lot more importance; as it was an opportunity to prove themselves against The University of Idaho, a very high ranking Western Athletic Conference team.
The Roadrunners started off with the wind in their face, battling for the ball and struggling to keep it out of the box. For the first 20 minutes the Runners struggled to fight off the Vandel’s smart, short-passing game and fasted-footed forwards. What UTSA lacked in reaction time the ladies certainly made up for in determination and speed. The Roadrunner’s defense did a fantastic job of booming the ball clear to the other side of the field almost every time Idaho got a little too close for comfort.
Defender Anka Grotle and Kinber Chudej, usually a forward, seemed to really step up while playing backfield, beating Idaho to the ball and consistently preventing close calls in the box. At the 23 minute mark, players on both benches anxiously watched as the forward, temporarily playing defender, Kauwela Neal intercepted the ball and made a break into Idaho’s territory. Weaving in and out of players, cutting and slicing though the Vandals’ mid-field and defense, Neal managed to end up right outside the box on a single run. A shot and a miss later the game had changed completely. Even though the Roadrunners didn’t score, the taste of a near goal was enough to act as a catalyst, changing the mainly defensive game to a full on offensive assault. For the rest of the first half, the ladies fought hard and put constant pressure on the Vandals’ defense and goalie, passing smart, and playing offensively. Whenever the ball would cross the mid-field line UTSA would slam the ball back to their forwards. After 15 minutes of beautiful shots on goal and impressive saves from the Vandals’ goalie Liz Boyden, the San Antonio girls started to lose their first bits of steam. As the frustration of many near goals set in, Coach Steve Ballard and the girls struggled to maintain composure. The last ten minutes of the first half were largely characterized by action in the mid-field, as the teams switched possession rapidly. The determined players constantly completed for a chance to score. Coming into the new half a new energy could be seen in the girls. Players were jumping up and down, giving pep talks to one another, all while harboring the wild eyes of lazer focus. Whatever their coach said to them must have worked. The girls started off with a bang whilst zooming down the field right from the get-go, performing some great maneuvering tricks, very smart passes and a great shot on goal.
Unfortunately this new found energy was cut short after forward Chelsea Small and mid-fielder Erica Hart of Idaho fought their way through through the Roadrunner defense and sent a low, speedy bullet to the right of UTSA’s goalie, Katarina Pus, from outside the six yard box. The roadrunners slowly walked back to their positions without one bit of chatter. Slowly but surely their spirits returned and the ladies were back in the game. Twelve minutes before the game was over, off a corner kick, Neal jumped out of a chaotic mass of players and managed to score a goal. With the clock ticking faster and faster and the match now tied, both teams were infected with an intense focus and determination unparalleled earlier in the match. The attitude of the Roadrunners changed to a “fired up and determined” state, as said by the goal scorer herself. Both teams were playing well, with spouts of discomposure, making it incredibly exciting and balanced in the last few minutes. Neither team scored, sending the game into overtime.
The game ended in a draw two overtimes later. The players walked off the field, disappointed in leaving without a winner.
The Runners played their hearts out and executed to an amazing level. There is always room to improve and the main area according to Ballard is of course “finishing and simply putting balls in the goal”. With 25 shots and only one goal, capitalizing on their scoring opportunities is an area the Roadrunners need to work on. Despite these statistics Ballard points out the two teams we have played were top seeds in the WAC, and he is incredibly proud of how the girls have been playing. The Roadrunners may be disappointed in walking away with a second tie but remain focused on their next game and improving their weakness. With the future in mind this disappointing result is a step in the right direction for a team that has struggled this season.