By Nathaniel Mata | Sports Editor
The Vaqueros played their first home game of the season tonight as they hosted Presbyterian College. UTRGV, fresh off a 2-1 weekend and tournament victory at Houston Baptist University, kept up their winning ways.
UTRGV was victorious in its home opener, shutting out its visitors 1-0.
Head Coach Paul Leese’s team was the aggressor early and didn’t wait long to score the game’s first goal.
Vaquero midfielder Angel Lopez sent a low, fast-moving center that redshirt freshman Jaako Hietikko was able to get a toe on to tip past the goalkeeper. The goal came 8:37 into the half. The tally was a culmination of early pressure and balls toward the net that tested the defense.
The Vaqueros continued to look dangerous in the first half. The offense pressured the visitors and earning a handful of close calls in the attacking third of the field. This continued for a majority of the match.
Presbyterian’s best opportunity came in the waning moments of the first half via a free kick outside of the box. UTRGV goalkeeper Leo Castillo got fingertips on the low shot from Presbyterian freshman Sergio Pinto.
The second half was less dominant for the home team. There were moments where the lead was in jeopardy. Presbyterian took seven shots in the second half, forcing Castillo to make three saves.
Castillo said he was fortunate to make the saves because his view was obstructed.
“See it? I didn’t see nothing until it was right in front of me,” he said.
The Vaqueros held on for the win, even after the numerous chances for the equalizing goal. Presbyterian’s strongest period of play came in the final 20 minutes of action as it attempted to escape with a win or tie.
Leese said he was unhappy with his team’s passive play in the second half.
“To be honest, I think we actually got lucky,” the second-year Vaquero head coach said. “Defensively, I don’t think we played well today. We gave up too many chances in that second half. Right now, I’m a little bit disappointed in our second half performance. I think after we scored we almost sat back a little bit more. I think that’s a factor maybe of inexperience.”
The goal scorer, Hietikko, who redshirted last season, was excited to get into the action. He is one of nine freshmen on the team.
“It was just like we rehearsed in practice this week; it was a great team goal,” he said.
Hietikko said he was concerned over sitting on the lead.
“That’s always hard for a young team like us,” he said. “If we score so early, to keep that momentum, we need to practice our mental toughness.”
UTRGV will try to take this momentum back onto a hostile field Sept. 9. The team will face San Diego State University in the Courtyard Marriott San Diego Central Tournament. Its next home match is Sept. 24 when it hosts in-state opposition, Our Lady of the Lake University.