Above photo of Maria Rico by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com
BELTON-The storyline cannot get much better for the UMHB women’s soccer team.
Two weeks ago, the Crusaders managed to knock off rival Hardin-Simmons, 1-0, beating the Cowgirls, winners of 19 straight ASC titles, for the first time in program history. A week later, they claimed the program’s first conference title, winning at Concordia. And on Thursday evening, hosting the ASC Tournament for the first time, UMHB managed to bring things full circle, defeating McMurry 1-0, setting up another contest against HSU; this time with the ASC championship on the line.
“Honestly, our goal has been to win a championship,” UMHB head coach Barry Elkins said following the match. “We don’t care who we play. We are just trying to win.”
That highly-anticipated conference title match is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday night. The winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“Getting to the final has not been what feels good,” Elkins added. “This is going to take a win.”
How it happened
Defense took center stage for the first 85 minutes of the match, as neither team scored, and even shots on goal were hard to come by with stellar play from both back lines.
But then Maria Rico did what All-Americans do. When a goal was needed most, the senior forward came through, finding the back of the net on a well-placed penalty kick to the lower right corner of the frame. It gave the Cru a 1-0 lead, and for the next five minutes, McMurry frantically tried to issue a counter, with no such luck. The UMHB defense was as good, or even better, than it had been for the previous 85 minutes, and McMurry did not record a shot in the final five minutes of play.
“McMurry did a wonderful job limiting our options up front and it was on us to push through that,” Elkins said. “I thought we needed to do the little things to try to speed up the game, and we were able to do that.”
Notable Team Numbers
UMHB tallied 13 shots, while McMurry had just two. However, both of the Warhawks’ shots were on goal, as they made good use of their potential scoring opportunities. UMHB recorded five shots on goal. The Cru also had nine corner kicks, compared to McMurry’s two.
Ashley Vensel did not start, but played 47 minutes, contributing a team-high five shots, two of which were on goal. At goalkeeper, Ainsley Westlake played all 90 minutes, with two saves.