SHSU’s soccer playoff run falls short against SFA

Lightning didn’t strike twice for Sam Houston State University’s soccer team during the 2013 Southland Conference tournament this weekend.

After defeating Nicholls State 1-0 in round one Thursday night in Lake Charles, La., SHSU would come up short 2-1 to rivals Stephen F. Austin in the semifinals Friday night to end their postseason run.

In their first-round matchup against Nicholls State, SHSU dominated play from their backfield. The Bearkats’ defense shut down Southland Conference’s Player of the Year Spencer Valdespino, containing her from producing quality shots on goal.

Valdespino put two shots past goalkeeper Kylie Hambleton in their regular season meeting, but Thursday night Valdespino couldn’t land a shot on goal.

“Defensively, we sorted a few things out,” Hambleton said. “[Thursday night’s] game we were able to stop [Valdespino], and I think that gave us the edge on them.”

Freshman substitute Allie Johnson would grab her first goal of the season 55 minutes into the match off a beautifully designed set piece. Centerback Megan Bennett sent the ball out wide to right defender Ashley Fluty to cross the ball to Johnson inside the box. Johnson headed the ball into the right side of the net to give SHSU the 1-0 win.

The Bearkats advanced to get a second chance at SFA in the semifinals.

In the beginning of Friday night’s match, the Bearkats controlled possession early and came out looking like the top seeded team, complimented by Fluty’s explosive shot from 35-yards out that gave the Bearkats the early 1-0 lead seven minutes in.

But once SHSU went up, the team lost their flow, head coach Tom Brown said.

“We had difficulty holding the ball especially about after the first 15,” he said. “I thought early on we were really knocking the ball and keeping it. Once we scored the goal I think players got a little excited and just got a little bit out of our rhythm.”

Lumberjack midfielder Rachel Owens equalized the game with a shot 20-yards out right before the end of the first half. Hambleton got a hand to the ball but stumbled backwards allowing the ball to cross the goal line for an SFA goal. Junior forward Chelsea Raymond secured the SFA victory with a brutal shot straight into the upper 90.

Although the 2-1 loss ended the Bearkats season, Brown commended his team’s work ethic.

“We are obviously disappointed with the result,” he said. “I thought overall our biggest thing was that we asked them to compete today, and I thought they did that.”

Southeastern Louisiana would top SFA in penalty shootouts Sunday afternoon to claim the 2013 Southland Conference Championship.

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