It was an emotional Sunday afternoon at Pritchett Field, as the seniors of the Sam Houston State soccer team played their last home game of their college careers.
“It’s definitely bittersweet. This is my home and not playing here ever again is going to be a little difficult to handle and adjust to,” senior forward Jordan Jarzombek said. “I’ve got a great coaching staff and a great team, and I’ve been blessed to be able to play with them and be a part of the program.”
The Bearkats came into Sunday’s matchup against Abilene Christian losing their last four games, and the losing skid continued against ACU. The two teams looked just about equal on the playing field, but a late goal in the first half, and an early goal in the second, lifted the Wildcats to a 2-0 win.
“I thought we competed better than we did Friday night [against Incarnate Word], so I was glad to see that,” head coach Tom Brown said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a goal in. I thought we had a couple of good chances, but for whatever reason it’s just not falling for us right now.”
SHSU played a significantly better game than they did Friday night against the Incarnate Word Cardinals. The Bearkat attack seemed to be in rhythm, as the team outshot the Wildcats by eight, finishing with 20 total shots. The Bearkats also had two more shots on target than ACU, finishing the game with seven shots on goal.
The Kats just couldn’t put one in the back of the net.
“We had some decent combination play with the front runners in the middle, and unfortunately Taylor [Pritchard] wasn’t able to get the one that rolled out to her in the goal,” Brown said. “I think that if we could’ve gotten one, then maybe we see a few others fall, but it just seems lately that the goal has had a plexiglass sheet across it, the one that we’re shooting at.”
The match was even across the board for the first 30 minutes. SHSU had a couple of scoring opportunities and two corner kicks that were unsuccessful. The tight match was finally busted open in the 31-minute when senior defensive midfielder Alyssa Gerner beat a defender inside the 18-yard box to score the Wildcats’ first goal.
Freshman forward Taylor Pritchard had a chance to answer back, but her shot in the 40-minute soared wide left. The Bearkats went into the half trailing 1-0.
In the second half, the Bearkats picked up their attacking pressure. More players were making runs, which meant more scoring opportunities.
Senior forward Allie Johnson had the best look for the Bearkats all day in the 54-minute when she found herself in a one-on-one scoring opportunity with ACU’s senior goalkeeper Sydney Newton. Johnson shot the ball towards the right post, but Newton made one of her seven saves on the day.
ACU added to their lead in the 50-minute when freshman defender Shay Johnson scored a header on a cross from inside the 6-yard box to put the Wildcats up 2-0.
Even being down by two goals, the Bearkats never gave up. The team kept up their level of play and they kept attacking the ACU defense. In the 73-minute, senior forward Madison Cannon sent a beautiful cross over to Johnson, but her header went over the crossbar. Cannon also sent a shot over the crossbar in the 75-minute.
“I was excited to see that the players came out and competed,” Brown said. “It does say a lot of good things about their character and their pride, that they wanted to come out and compete when they really could’ve just gone through the motions. I was pleased with that.”
The Bearkats would eventually fall to the Wildcats for their fifth consecutive loss of the season. With a slim chance of clinching a spot in the Southland Conference tournament, SHSU (2-15-1, 2-7-1 SLC) will now travel to Nacogdoches on Oct. 28 to take on the No. 2 team in the conference, the Stephen F. Austin State Lumberjacks (11-4, 8-2 SLC).
“I don’t think to many true Sam Houston athletes won’t turn up to play in a Stephen F. Austin game. They’re going to want to compete and get out there,” Brown said. “We beat them here last time, so I’m sure they would like to do nothing, but get a little revenge.”
The game will be viewable on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.