After going winless in nine non-conference games, the Idaho soccer team turned things around to start 2-0 in Big Sky play after the weekend.
The Vandals overcame two late goals against Northern Colorado with a late Kavita Battan game-winning goal Friday. On Sunday when they hosted North Dakota, the sophomore forward from Vancouver, Washington, scored again in the 21st minute to give the Vandals an early lead.
That goal was all it took to get the win as sophomore goal keeper Torell Stewart and the Vandals held North Dakota goallees for the remainder of the game and recorded their first shutout of the season.
The Vandals will be back in action Friday when they hit the road to take on Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah.
“Having our team come out and play with heart and passion and winning that game totally carried over on into today,” Battan said. “We played with confidence and we went out and did exactly what we needed it do.”
The team defends as a group and attacks as a group, Idaho coach Derek Pittman said. That group mentality was evident when Stewart, the goal keeper, assisted on Battan’s game winning goal.
“Torell made a number of big saves without a doubt, but the backline and midfield also defended well today,” Pittman said. “We were able to grind out a shutout and get the win.”
The early lead really helped the Vandals from a mental standpoint, Battan said.
“Getting an early goal put the other team on their heels and got our spirits up and we were ready to go and we kept pushing,” Battan said. “We might not have gotten another goal, but we definitely had the opportunities and we were confident in ourselves.”
The Vandals knew they wanted to attack the North Dakota defense early, which they did. They created a number of scoring opportunities that kept them under pressure, Pittman said. He said he would have liked a second goal for insurance, but he credited UND for playing hard and not allowing them to do so.
The Vandals found a way to tough out a victory, which is never easy coming off of less than 48-hours rest, Pittman said.
On top of the short turnaround was the sheer physicality of the game. Both teams were not afraid of contact and toward the end of the game it started to get physical in play.
This wasn’t the first time the Vandals had to deal with it, either.
“We learned a lesson from Grand Canyon,” Pittman said. “We weren’t going to repeat those same mistakes from last weekend. I thought our team did stay composed … Every game is going to be physical in the Big Sky — we play physical, our opponents are going to try to be physical so we have to keep our cool.”
Battan said the Vandals showed grit and said they can take on any team that comes with physicality.
Although the Vandals are flying high at 2-0 in the Big Sky, the team is not going to start getting ahead of itself just yet, Battan said. It is still a one-game-at-a-time mentality.
“There are still a lot of games left to be played in the Big Sky, so we can’t get too ahead of ourselves, but it is nice to pick up six points this weekend and sit near the top of the standings,” Pittman said.