The Aggie soccer team won for the sixth time in their last seven matches, extended their unbeaten streak to seven matches and also remained undefeated in conference play by defeating visiting Hawai'i 2-1 in overtime on Sunday afternoon. "I'm very proud of the kids, we did exactly what we wanted to do. We put them [Hawai'i] under pressure early," said Coach Needham after the match. "We played very hard which is turning into a trademark of what we do. We just gritted it out."
After playing to a scoreless draw through the first 81 minutes, Aggie freshman forward Crystal Burns put the Aggies on the board with an unassisted goal from 18 yards out to give the team a 1-0 lead. However, just two minutes later Hawai'i would knot the score up on a goal by Abree Ako. Ako's goal was the first given up by the Aggie defense in over 340 minutes of match time.
With the match tied at one goal apiece the teams headed to overtime where in the 99th minute Aggie freshman Natalie Nichols who was filling in for an injured Lauren Cope drew a Hawai'i foul in the penalty box. "She played hard and ultimately got a penalty for us at the end," said Coach Needham. Freshman Jazmin Cardoso lined up for the winning attempt and Cardosa's strike was true as it swept into the lower left-hand corner of the goal giving the Aggies a 2-1 victory.
The Aggies outshot the Wahine 9-2 in the first half which was exactly what Coach Needham had drawn up as the plan for the Aggies. "That's what we wanted to do. We wanted to come out and put them under pressure. Hawai'i is a different team when you play them at home and they're a different team when you play them at their place. We wanted to put them under pressure in the first half and we did a good job of doing that."
In the second half the shots were more even as UH outshot the Aggies 11-9. "In the second half I thought they found their rhythm a little bit more. They definitely created some really good chances to score more goals," said Coach Needham. Despite the increased number of shots from Hawai'i, the Aggie defense came up strong allowing just the one goal. "Again Katie Graul was very good and our back four... Our back four doesn't get enough credit," said Coach Needham of his defenders. "Katie gets a lot of credit for what she does but Elise Nordin and Courtney Irwin today were big. Vanessa Thomas was big and Baili Foutz was big too."
The Aggies' overtime victory was their third overtime victory of the season after falling short in overtime in their first two opening matches. "I think we're pretty fit which helps when you get into overtimes, especially against a team that's on the road," said Coach Needham of his team's performance in the extra periods.
He also credited their success to his younger kids taking up leadership roles. "We're really starting to develop some leadership out of some of these younger kids. A kid like Courtney Irwin who doesn't say much, she just quietly goes about doing her job as a centerback, but the last two overtime games she's really stepped up and said, 'Let's get it going. Let's win this game. We're not going to lose this game right now.'" He added, "I think that's big. When you've got players on a team that are going to jump up and do that, that's something really special."
The Aggies are off until Friday when they take on Louisiana Tech in Ruston. The Aggies are in solo first place after the weekend's matches with 13 points. The Aggies are followed closely by San Jose State (11 points) and Utah State (10 points) who played to a 1-1 draw. Fresno State knocked off Nevada to move to nine points. Nevada is tied with Boise State and Idaho with six points after Idaho defeated their in-state rivals 3-1 on Sunday.