The UTRGV Vaqueros Women’s Soccer Team tonight hosted a Western Athletic Conference match for the first time in the 2015 season. The 0-1 loss at the hands of Grand Canyon University pushed their overall record to 2-6-3 and 0-2-0 in the WAC.
The Grand Canyon University Antelopes came to Edinburg with only one conference result, a home draw with Cal State Bakersfield. The Vaqueros also had only played a single WAC match before Friday, a 2-1 loss in Las Cruces, N.M., at the hands of New Mexico State.
It was a slow pace to start in the game. The opening 10 minutes did not see much possession or sustained offense for either team.
UTRGV’s goalkeeper, junior Maria Eriksen, was tested for the first time with 36:29 remaining in the first half with a dangerous shot from inside the 18-yard box. Moments later, Eriksen was tested again but handled the long-range effort. She made seven saves in the contest and was confident the offense will come in time.
“I think our team put up a pretty good fight and we had our chances,” said Eriksen, a native of Borlange, Sweden. “I think it’s really important to keep it strong in the back. Everyone fought really hard today. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get a reward. I’m not worried at all, [the offense] will come. We’re really close and we have our chances. We just need that one extra percent to put the ball in the net.”
As the first half progressed, the ’Lopes defense held strong, not allowing the Vaqueros many good looks until the 31:29 mark of the first half, which was a distance effort.
With 7:09 before halftime, UTRGV’s Marcela Ruiz had an opening outside of the 18-yard box that went high over the visiting keeper. The best chance in the first half came at 39:58 when Diandra Aliaga had a golden opportunity to take the lead after a feed from freshman Meghan Orem. The chance put Aliaga alone in front of GCU goalie, Blakey Fraasch. Aliaga’s shot went wide and Fraash was not tested.
In the second half, UTRGV played most of the period on the defensive side of the field.
Finally, with 18:21 to play in the match, Grand Canyon finally broke the scoreless tie with a goal from Madison Cox, a Tampa Bay native. The assist came from junior Jessica Valdez. Vaquero goalie Eriksen got a piece of the ball but the deflection still ended up in the back of the UTRGV net.
After the goal, the Vaqueros’ late push was fruitless. A pair of home corner kicks did not result in any shots on goal.
The ’Lopes continued to keep possession and keep the ball away from UTRGV on the way to their first WAC win of the season.
Second-year Head Coach Glad Bugariu said the team has made strides from a year ago, when the Grand Canyon match was a 4-1 loss.
“We lost 4-1 to these people a year ago; they tried to humiliate us,” Bugariu said. “We closed the gap a little bit, and that’s the purpose of each recruiting class. We were organized today, we had a couple chances. We defended well. Most of their shots were from distance. We are definitely making progress as a second-year team.”
Bugariu said the search for offense will continue but it’s not the lack of chances haunting the team.
“We’re looking for someone who can step up and score some goals consistently,” he said. “We certainly create chances, even against a good team like this we create a couple chances. That goal goes in and it’s a different match. They come in here and expect to beat us easily, but if we can score a goal with the opportunities we have they start to get frustrated, then we’re able to [change the outcome] of the game.”
Now the Vaqueros will move to a tough stretch of the schedule, facing teams such as defending conference champions Seattle University and the team that eliminated them in the conference tournament last year, Utah Valley University.
The Vaqueros second match of the weekend takes place at 1 p.m. Sunday, when Cal State Bakersfield visits, also trying to improve their conference standing.