Vaqueros overpower Salukis in second half

By Brooke Buerck, Sports Reporter

Southern Illinois used a second half scoring opportunity to take a brief lead over the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros during Sunday’s game, but they weren’t able to outlast the Vaqueros in a 4-1 loss at home. 

Head coach Grant Williams, who leads the Salukis in their first season, said that he was disappointed with his team’s lack of competitiveness. 

“We weren’t sharp, we weren’t dialed in… we didn’t really have the competitiveness that’s necessary to compete and win at this level,” said Williams. “We just are at a point where we’re hitting a wall a little bit. [We’re facing] mental, physical, emotional fatigue, and we just have to try to manage that the best we can.”

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Southern Illinois (4-7-1) took the field for the first time since last Sunday, when they dropped a 2-0 decision to the Colorado College Tigers at Colorado Springs. 

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (6-3-1) rolled into today’s matchup off of a 5-0 shutout of the Texas Lutheran University Bulldogs on Thursday. 

UTRGV forced the Salukis to play defense in the first half, putting up 11 shots compared to the Dawgs’ two. Despite the opportunities, however, the score remained tied 0-0 for the entire first half. 

Freshman goalkeeper Dariana Mihalache recorded her first save of the game just two minutes into play, stopping a shot from UTRGV’s freshman midfielder Anna Torslov. Two minutes later, junior midfielder Gina Steiner put up a shot for the Vaqueros, but wasn’t able to put it on goal.

The Vaqueros found another scoring opportunity eight minutes into play with a shot coming off the foot of Torslov, but they weren’t able to get the ball past Mihalache. 

A foul by the Salukis gave the Vaqueros a free kick opportunity just outside the eighteen yard box, but Mihalache recorded her third save with a deflection of the shot by senior midfielder Diana Hansah. 

Southern Illinois was able to find their first scoring opportunity of the game 19 minutes into the half, with freshman forward Blake Clark putting a shot on goal. Vaquero junior goalkeeper Maile Lunardi was able to make the save, her first of the game. 

A run by freshman forward Emma Spotak allowed the Salukis to put up a second shot on goal at the 27-minute mark, but Spotak’s ball wasn’t able to find the back of the net. 

UTRGV had a corner kick opportunity with 12 seconds left in the half, but weren’t able to put a shot up, and the score remained tied heading into the second half. 

It was during the second half that both teams recorded their goals, but the Saluki defense failed to hold off the Vaqueros.

Less than a minute into the second half, the Salukis were able to capitalize on an offensive run. Freshman forward Liz Brechtel used a one-on-one opportunity against Vaquero goalkeeper to record their first goal of the game, putting Southern Illinois up 1-0.

SIU was not able to hold the lead for long, though, as Rio Grande Valley responded a few minutes later with a goal of their own. Sophomore forward Emily Zapata was able to put a shot past Mihalache 52 minutes into play to tie the score 1-1. 

Williams said that it was UTRGV’s attitude that kept the Vaqueros in the game.

“[UTRGV] came with the right attitude to win. Even going a goal down early in the first half, it didn’t deter them and their body language didn’t change,”Williams said. “For them, it was business as usual.”

The Vaqueros kept the Salukis on the defensive end while using multiple shot opportunities near the 63-minute mark. Senior forward Sarah Bonney put a shot on goal for UTRGV that Mihalache was able to deflect, and off the bounce sophomore forward Shentatious Knox found a shot, but freshman defender Katy Quinn stopped the ball from rolling in. 

Shortly to follow, the Vaqueros used two shot opportunities in quick succession to take the advantage: at 66 minutes into play, a shot on goal by Zapata found the back of the net, and at 67 minutes, Steiner fired a ball past Mihalache to take the lead, 3-1.

With 16 minutes left in the match, a run from Bonney assisted Torslov in putting in another goal, and UTRGV took the 4-1 lead over SIU. 

Despite the deficit, the Salukis continued to look for scoring opportunities, with freshman midfielder and forward Paityn Schneider putting a shot on goal at 78 minutes into the game and Bretchel fired a shot at 79 minutes, but they weren’t able to get in another goal. 

Freshman goalkeeper Nicole Raventos closed out the game for the Salukis in goal, stopping a shot from Knox to keep the deficit at three goals. 

For the half, UTRGV recorded 14 total shots, eight of which fell on goal, compared to SIU’s four shots with three on goal.

Zapata, with her two goals, lead the Vaqueros in goals scored, while Torslov lead in shot opportunities with a total of five. 

Williams said that, in preparation for their next match, his team will focus on maximizing their training opportunities throughout the week and allowing athletes to heal and return to play.

“We’re going to have to use this time to recover,” Williams said. “It’s more about sharpness and the quality of our training as we approach this last month of the season, [rather] than quantity.”

Southern will use the upcoming week to prepare for their next matchup against the Southeast Missouri State University Redhawks on Sunday Oct. 6. Game time is set for 2 P.M. at Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Sports reporter Brooke Buerck can be reached at [email protected]ian.com or on Twitter at @bbuerck25

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