Big Sky Conference play is what matters most in the soccer season, and Idaho (6-4-1 overall, 2-0 Big Sky Conference) started off its quest for the conference tournament with two huge road wins in conference play.
On Friday, the Vandals found themselves in Pocatello against a dismal Idaho State team (1-9-1) with a 2-1 victory. Junior forward Kavita Battan scored both goals for Idaho in what happened to be the 100th win in school history.
“Idaho State is a tough place to play and the Bengals are better than their record indicates,” Idaho coach Derek Pittman said. “I’m extremely proud of our players and how they just found a way tonight even when it wasn’t our best performance. Sometimes it’s just the team that fights until the end and shows the most discipline. We showed great mental toughness to win on the road.”
Battan’s first goal came in the 12th minute after being set up by sophomore forward Olivia Baggerly and the second goal came in the 86th minute.
Battan scored two goals in a match earlier this month in Memphis, making this the second time the junior from Vancouver, Washington, has done it this season.
The Bengals’ goal came in the 57th minute from Maria Sanchez, who is also a member of the Mexican national team.
The competition was stiffer on Sunday, or so it seemed, as the Vandals defeated Weber State (4-6-1, 0-2) in 1-0 fashion.
Pittman said the victory could be attributed to the players’ work in limiting Weber State’s opportunities.
“Amanda (Poertner) has done an excellent job in goal, making saves when she needs to, but you have to give credit to the other 10 players that play in front of her,” Pittman said. “Our back line stood very strong today. I was really pleased with our midfield and how they did what they needed to do to close down spaces.”
Idaho freshman forward Kayla Watanabe scored the lone goal of the match in the 59th minute.
“These shutouts go on Amanda’s stats, but it should be a total team stat for us,” Pittman said.
The two victories put Idaho in a three-way tie with Eastern Washington (8-1-1, 2-0) and Sacramento State (4-6, 2-0) for the top spot in the conference. The Vandals lost to Eastern Washington earlier this year in a nonconference match and play Sacramento State Sunday.
“You hope to at least get one win on the road in conference play,” Pittman said. “For us to come home with two road wins against two very good opponents is huge for us.”
The Vandals return home to play Portland State (3-7, 1-1) 3:30 p.m., Friday at Guy Wicks Field and then Sacramento State (4-6, 2-0) at 1 p.m., Sunday at Guy Wicks.
Ben Evensen can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @BenE_VN