For just the third time in their eight-year history, the Southwestern Assemblies of God University won their home opener, 2-1, in women’s soccer.
The match with Johnson and Wales University went to overtime before the Lady Lions struck for a “golden goal.”
A pair of SAGU seniors, Lyndi Garrison and Noelle Pugliese teamed-up to produce a crowdpleasing end.
Garrison took a pass near centerfield, and spun like a top past a defender. The 5-foot-4 forward angled in and chipped a touch pass to Pugliese, who raced behind the backline.
She cut into the box from the left corner. With the option of passing to her right, she took on the keeper, Breggie Coffey, one-on-one. The goalie was perfectly positioned near the left post.
Pugliese, who was robbed of a goal with nine minutes to go in regulation, ripped a right-foot blast to Coffey’s right. Fired from eight yards out, the shot was just below the hip. The keeper, with arms extended, somehow got both mitts on the ball before it glanced into the net, just inside the upright.
The game-ending tally came with 3:17 remaining in what could have been two, 10-minute extra sessions. It occurred at the 96:43 mark on a sizzling afternoon.
“I can’t remember who gave me the ball,” Garrison said. “But I took it up the side of the field and saw Noelle. It was a great opportunity. I sent it to her and prayed she would get it in the goal. And she sure did! Yeah!”
Deadlocked and running on ‘want to’ in triple-digit temps, both teams battled heroically. The mild breeze from the first half was absent after intermission, leaving only sweltering conditions.
Three times the officials stopped the match when a player yielded to the heat, each time stopping the action for a hydration break.
The Lady Lions entered the game bent on attacking the Wildcats with varied means; along the flanks, over the top and with through-balls. Early on they struck pay dirt.
Just 11:24 into the game SAGU drew first blood. From nearly the same spot on the pitch that Garrison set up the golden goal, sophomore Justine Lopez delivered.
She lifted a flair over two defenders to Madi Thornley, who broke free, narrowly avoiding an offside call. Known in her prep days as “Thorn,” for her impact on opponents, she advanced towards the box.
Rayanna Gossett; the starting goalie, came out to cut off the angle. Thornley juked her with a move to her left, then tapped the ball into the open net. Just 11 minutes later the visitors leveled the score. Mary Emilie Potter passed quickly to Chay Stark, who trapped the ball outside the box near the left corner.
The 5-foot-9-inch freshman ripped a laser to the left of SAGU goalie Haley Shingleton. She got her fingertips on it before the ball grazed the crossbar and then into the webbing at 22:12.
Each team had other scoring chances, but most were from distances that allowed the keeper to make easy snares. Not much happened in the middle 30 minutes of the math.
The heat led to players settling for shots rather than laboring for quality scoring bids.
“This was definitely a team effort,” Fortner added. “I am proud of how each player pushed themselves for their teammates.”
While the coach was proud, she knows that her team has some improvements to make.
“We still have a lot to work on and we still have some (sidelined) players to add to the lineup,” Fortner said. “I’m excited to sense how much we will accomplish this year.”
The two squads each fired 17 shots, with 11 on goal. Both attempted three corner kicks, none resulting in a shot.
JWU was cited for eight of the game’s 11 fouls. They displayed a more physical brand of play, prompting Team Purple to use their speed up front.
Often, however, their timing lacked cohesion. Seven offside violations negated a number of breakaway chances.
Perhaps the play of the game, however, was turned in by the SAGU defense.
After Pugliese’s proposal to score into an exposed net was booted away at the goaline by defender Viktorya Barnhart, the Wildcats threatened with a counter attack.
Gossett began the game at GK. She donned a blue-jersey and lurked in the box as the Wildcats were mounting a strike in the 85th minute.
Lions junior keeper Shingleton was on the ground after a save, when Gossett located a loose ball on the left side. From point-blank range, five yards out, she banged what appeared to be a sure goal.
Now 1-2 on the season, the Lady Lions travel 324 miles to Pineville, La., for their next game at noon Saturday.
Louisiana College (0-2) topped SAGU last year in Waxahachie, 2-0.