As the nonconference portion of Idaho’s soccer schedule comes to a close, the Vandals head into Big Sky Conference play with a 4-4-1 record after beating South Dakota and drawing with Seattle U this past weekend.
On Friday, the Vandals demolished the Coyotes of South Dakota 4-1 at Guy Wicks Field. Junior forward Kavita Battan scored the first goal in the 29th minute, which extended her team-leading goal total of the season. Junior midfielder Alyssa Lloyd had a goal in the 42nd minute and one in the 89th while junior midfielder Elexis Schlossarek scored too and gave Idaho the 4-1 victory.
“It was definitely a total team effort,” Lloyd said. “I think that there’s still a lot we need to work on and push forward into the season. It’s good getting the 4-1 win but we definitely need to keep going hard.”
Sunday was a different story though against Seattle U, where the Vandals didn’t get the win but still held the Redhawks scoreless in the match, finishing with a 0-0 draw.
“Very proud of our team,” Idaho coach Derek Pittman said. “We challenged (the players) before kickoff that we wanted this one to be our best to this point and they did that today. We didn’t score a goal today, but we were very dangerous on the attack when we needed to be … I’m very proud of our team for fighting all the way to the bitter end to get a very important tie for us.”
Sophomore forward Josilyn Daggs had the first attempt for Idaho in the 16th minute but her shot was saved by the Seattle U goalkeeper. Freshman forward Kayla Watanabe fired a shot right after that like Daggs’, but it was saved. Freshman defender Claire Johnson had a 35-plus yard shot that was barely saved by the SU goalkeeper in the 75th minute.
Regardless of not getting the win, the Vandals stand at .500 going into conference play, as there are no more nonconference matches the rest of the season.
“We took a huge stride forward today,” Pittman said. “There were a lot of positives to take from today’s game moving forward into conference play. Everybody’s undefeated now. It’s going to be a situation where we need to be ready to battle against two good opponents.”
Idaho will travel to Idaho State Friday and then Weber State Sunday to start Big Sky play before hosting Portland State and Sacramento State next weekend.
In the end of the nonconference portion of the season Idaho still had some encouraging wins as well as some tough losses. Shutouts against Arkansas State and New Mexico State show just how dominate this team can be, while a double-overtime loss to Memphis, a top-65 team nationally, shows the talent this team has.
Last year Idaho was a dismal 0-9 heading into Big Sky play before rebounding to finish 4-14-2 on the year. This year though at 4-4-1, the Vandals have much more confidence and proof of improved play before they start the conference matches.
Ben Evensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenE_VN