Texas State earned a convincing 3-1 Senior Day win at home Oct. 25 against the University of Louisiana-Monroe after a disciplined yet dynamic finale to the regular season.
The win moves the Bobcats to 4-8-1 on the season and 4-4 in the Sun Belt Conference, scraping a respectable conference record from a season with generally more downs than ups. ULM remains at the bottom of the conference at 0-8 overall.
Texas State started the first half with productivity and quickness in its passing rhythms. The Warhawk defense and midfield often found themselves overwhelmed by the Bobcat press, hastily clearing the ball or forcing long passes just to get out of their defensive third.
The hard work in the press paid off for Head Coach Kat Conner and her team, as a pass from junior defender Gabie Jones from around the halfway line found senior midfielder/forward Mackenzie Smith flicking the ball to senior forward Sydney Kammer, who poked the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net for a 1-0 Bobcat lead in the sixth minute.
The first goal represented the proper execution of the game plan and the presence of clinical finishing, which was often absent in several games this season, according to Kammer.
“What worked well was we changed the field, we got in behind the defense and we got lots of opportunities on goal, ” Kammer said. “We put those away.”
Texas State continued to press and win the ball from a lackluster ULM performance for most of the first half but could not set up any clear cut chances for the forwards to convert.
Toward the end of the first half, the Bobcats relaxed the pressure, allowing more ULM shots from distance and more space to the midfield. Taking their foot off the gas would cost the Bobcats, as freshman forward Janet Stopka received the ball near the edge of the box and drove home a low shot to the bottom right corner of the net to level the game 1-1.
Texas State could have conceded one or two more goals if not for freshman goalkeeper Beth Agee's heroics throughout the first half. Several times, Agee rushed to meet through balls and took one-on-ones with ULM forwards on the edge of her box and walked away the victor.
Agee tallied six saves in the first half and eight for the game, totaling 69 saves on the season. ULM outshot the Bobcats 10 to three in the first half.
The second half started out similarly to the first. The Bobcats were rewarded for their efforts early into the half, in the 55th minute, when senior midfielder Renny Moore headed in a cross to push the Bobcats ahead 2-1.
The Bobcats kept their foot on the gas, pressing and forcing long through balls down the wings. ULM conceded several corners following Bobcat attacks, giving the impression the dam would break once more if the pressure did not relent.
Five minutes after the Moore goal, sophomore midfielder Karlee Torisk, who had a great game screening passes and winning back the ball in the defensive midfield role, headed home a Moore corner to push the lead to 3-1.
Conner was pleased with her team's execution of the game plan, which she says led to the goals.
“They understood the strategy we were asking them to do,” Conner said. “I was really impressed with how our players managed the clock, managed the game, managed the field and found two more goals. Excellent job.”
The game devolved into long and hopeful shots for ULM, all comfortably saved by Agee. Texas State earned a few more corners but found no more clear-cut chances.
With 10 minutes to go, a wave of senior substitutes entered the game to loud applause from the Texas State fans and family in attendance. The seniors closed out their last home game before the Sun Belt Tournament as the Bobcats won 3-1.
“It’s always extra special to win for the seniors, and this year being a senior makes it even more special,” Moore said.
Texas State will take on the Sun Belt Tournament beginning Nov. 2-8 in Foley, Alabama. The team's opponent in the tournament has yet to be determined.
After a more often than not difficult regular season, player mentality is still just as focused on winning as it ever is, according to Moore.
“Nothing [changes with tournament play], we always try to win every single game,” Moore said. “Obviously, it’s ‘you lose and you’re out’ but we always try to win anyway.”
The team’s even record in the conference and the high level of competition within it means no result is a given, according to Conner.
“There’s no doubt the Sun Belt is a very good conference, in the sense that any team can beat anybody,” Conner said. “We’ll have to see who we match up against, study them a little bit.”
Conner believes the team knows the stakes and has learned from the turbulent season.
“They understand what these [games] are preparing them for,” Conner said. “They understand they’re in the tournament, and now is the time to put it all together.”