Texas State soccer snatched a tight victory Oct. 18 against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock 2-1 after an 88th-minute penalty.
The Bobcats moved to 3-8-1 on the season overall and 3-4-0 in the Sun Belt Conference after a solid defensive performance, only allowing two shots on target and one goal the entire game.
The early minutes of the first half were all Texas State, as senior forward Sydney Kammer forced a save from Little Rock freshman goalkeeper Saskia Wagner just 59 seconds into the game. Another Bobcat shot, this time by senior midfielder Renny Moore, also met the gloves of Wagner just a minute after the first shot.
Texas State slowly ceded its dominance after the 20th minute, as both teams struggled to create any tangible offense from midfield. Several attempts at threat creation were met by solid defense from both teams. The Little Rock backline in particular intercepted many of the through balls sent by Bobcat midfield.
Texas State would have little offensive play for the rest of the half other than two shots on target from crosses and poor Trojan clearances. Strong winds, which had not interfered with the game until then, began to slow down the Bobcat offense as lofted through balls would lose all their momentum going against the wind.
Little Rock’s only real offense came from long-distance shots testing freshman goalkeeper Beth Agee’s vertical, as many went just over or wide of the net. The wind would force most of Little Rock’s shots to dip, making it even more difficult for Agee, who leads the nation with 61 saves after this game.
The first corner of the game arrived in the 37th minute for Little Rock after a long spell of no offense or shots on target for either team. The Trojans found their first credible offensive threat from the set piece, as well minutes after the first corner.
Little Rock found fortune with the wind just before halftime. A long shot from redshirt senior forward Doro Greulich was swerved by the strong winds over Agee’s hand and into the back of the net. The goal was the Trojans' only shot on target for the half.
Texas State Head Coach Kat Conner says she encouraged her players to maintain the consistency displayed in the first half and sharpen their delivery and finishing.
“I told the players at half time they played a marvelous first half,” Conner said. “They need to come back out and do it again, get their shots off a little quicker, get their crosses off a little quicker.
The second half shaped up much like the first, with early pressure from an eager Texas State. A Trojan shot on target saved by Agee two minutes into the second half ended up being Little Rock’s only other shot on target for the rest of the game. Trojan offensive efforts dried up soon after that, as the Bobcats pressed higher up the pitch as the game went on.
The middle of the second half again mirrored the first as neither team created much from midfield; long passes by defenders and goalkeepers would bounce back into midfield and find the feet of an opposing forward. Both teams intercepted most passes for much of the remaining time. The game appeared to follow the script of most other Bobcat contests; solid defense would transition into ambitious passing, yet no end result.
The little bit of magic Texas State needed was provided by freshman forward Olivia Wright, who received the ball near the edge of the area, dodged two tackles from Trojan defenders and kept running toward goal after a third tackle tripped her up, thumping a cross-body shot into the right side of the net to make it 1-1. Wright’s individual effort was her first goal in her collegiate career.
Wright emphasized her persistence as a contributing factor for her goal.
“My first look was back to see if I had the open shot,” Wright said. “I got fouled, or whatever, but it’s [important to] always get back up, always hit my shots, get my chances.”
Little Rock found its rhythm after the equalizer, shooting four times in the next nine minutes. A Greulich shot to Agee’s near post in the 84th minute almost flew in, if not for the crossbar.
Texas State’s pursuit of a winner ratcheted up in the final five minutes of the game, seeing a shot from Moore saved by Wagner. The Bobcat goal looked closer than ever because of the team’s persistence, according to Wright.
“Even if we get scored on, always have that mentality to always push forward, to do better,” Wright said. “We really just stayed connected and got a goal.”
The Bobcat press finally found its end result with two to go in the half, after a Trojan foul in the box set up senior forward/midfielder Mackenzie Smith, who also scored her first goal of the season to secure a 2-1 win for the Bobcats.
The Bobcats outshot the Trojans 18 to 12 and only conceded two shots on goal, which could indicate the start of an upward trend in their offensive output. The Bobcats tallied 10 shots on target and only converted one of them from open play. The play before the penalty saw Smith in open space near the Trojan goal, a scenario drawn up by the team and practiced during the days before the game.
“I was making runs up top,” Smith said. “We’ve been working on that all week for the center [midfielder] to make a diagonal run. That’s how I got in behind.”
Smith says converting the chance was the only thing on her mind as she prepared to take the penalty.
“I’m gonna make it,” Smith said about her thoughts prior to the spot-kick. “It’s going in.”
Conner viewed the win as an excellent performance overall, tactically and mentally.
“We played one of our better games, to tell you the truth,” Conner said. “They understood exactly what our game plan was.”
Texas State’s last game of the regular season will take place Oct. 25 against the winless University of Louisiana at Monroe (0-7-0 overall, 0-6-0 conference). The game will be streamable on ESPN+.