Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com
BELTON- It was a historic night at the Cru Soccer Field on Saturday evening.
There is always emotion surrounding the annual duels between UMHB and Hardin-Simmons on both the men’s and women’s sides, but Saturday’s matches felt different.
There was potential for history to be made, and that is exactly what played out as the Crusader soccer teams continued to push forwards in what has been an exceptional last two months.
The women, ranked No. 14 in the nation, took down Hardin-Simmons, the winners of 19 straight ASC titles, for the first time in 39 meetings in a 1-0 victory. Head coach Barry Elkins’ team remains undefeated, at 14-0-1, heading into next Saturday’s regular season finale at Concordia.
Meanwhile, the men’s team came up with another shutout, in a 3-0 win, clinching its second straight ASC regular season title. With a 7-0-1 conference record heading into the Concordia match next weekend, UMHB has already clinched the No. 1 seed in the ASC Tournament.
How it happened
Maria Rico provided the game’s lone scoring play less than eight minutes into the contest, finding the back of the net on an unassisted goal at the 7:17 mark.
As anticipated, offense was hard to come by, as the final score implies, with both defenses rising to the occasion. Both UMHB and HSU tallied a total of three shots each in the first half, and the Cowgirls managed just a single shot over the final 45 minutes of play. There were various points at which HSU seemed to hold possession for minutes at a time, constantly on the attack, but the visitors from Abilene were unable to get the ball past UMHB’s strong back line. The Crusaders had three second half shots.
With such a competitive matchup, both goalkeepers stepped up. UMHB’s Ainsley Westlake played a full 90 minutes for the first time this season, as she tallied a pair of saves. HSU’s Haley Foley also played all 90 minutes, and had two saves, though the goal she did allow proved to be the deciding factor.
The most memorable moment perhaps came in the closing seconds of the match, when the historic victory was finally realized. After years of close losses and draws against a perennial powerhouse in the ASC, UMHB finally ascended to victory in the rivalry.
The work is far from over for the Crusaders, however. Elkins mentioned in an interview with True To The Cru in early October that the Concordia match may mean even more from a strategic standpoint than the HSU match, especially since Concordia is No. 2 in the conference, at 6-2 in ASC play.
That regular-season finale in Round Rock is set for 1 p.m. on Oct. 29.
The Crusaders wasted little time in taking the lead, breaking the scoreless tie in the sixth minute on Patrick Roach’s goal, which came on an assist from Brody Conley. In fact, all three of UMHB’s goals were scored within the first 20 minutes, as Ben Platt found the back of the net in the 19th minute, and Conley added a goal of his own 1:16 later, making it 3-0 in favor of the Cru.
From there, UMHB played lights-out defensively. Though HSU had a number of opportunities, taking seven shots in each of the two matches, with 11 total shots on goal, the Crusaders’ defensive intensity made it hard for the Cowboys to get many good looks. Of course, the performance of goalkeeper Dalton Lloyd, coming off a week in which he earned ASC Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors, played a tremendous role in the shutout. Lloyd tallied nine saves, his second-most in a single game this season, as he played 85 minutes.
The victory was UMHB’s sixth shutout of the season, and puts the Cru in prime position for success entering the ASC Tournament. Concordia certainly will not be an easy opponent in the regular season finale, as the Tornadoes are the only other team in the ASC that has not lost a match, though they have tied three, with a 5-0-3 record. Next Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. duel will feature the league’s top two teams.
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