Despite a lights-out performance by sophomore goalkeeper Torell Stewart, the Vandals could not get out of the losing column Sunday afternoon as Washington State traveled across the border to defeat them 1-0.
The Idaho soccer team (0-7) will try to end its losing streak Friday when it travels to Phoenix to take on former WAC opponent Grand Canyon.
Much like the Vandals’ last game at Guy Wicks against Boise State, there was a packed house. Only this time, the WSU fans in attendance were muchmore vocal. At times, the roar of the WSU contingent all but drowned out the Vandal supporters who were all but silent by the end of the contest.
After struggling early this season and splitting time with freshman goalkeeper Kimberly Gerken, Stewart got out of her early season funk and is playing some of the best soccer of her young career.
Stewart recorded 16 saves in the Vandals’ last two games with 10 on Sunday.
“Without a doubt, Torell had a great game today — by far her best game … the saves, crosses, everything she handled as far as goal scoring opportunities,” Idaho coach Derek Pittman said. “She did a great job but I think she would give credit to her back line and the players in front of her keeping everything so organized.”
On numerous occasions, members of the Vandal defense made plays to either stopor get in the way of a WSU shot, which is something that the team focuses on and takes pride in, Pittman said.
“This is by far the best, hands down, performance all season long. A light went on for some of our players today and they really played to their fullest potential,” he said. “Washington State is a very good team. At the end of the season they will probably be very high in the Pac-12, possibly even top 25 when it is all said and done.”
The Vandals went blow-for-blow with WSU and nearly took an early lead in the first half when a shot by Alyssa Pease narrowly missed the net. Alyssa’s sister Amanda Pease had a similar opportunity early in the second half, but both shots just sailed over the net. Along with the two sophomores, freshman midfielder Chloe Bell also recorded a shot.
Not only are the Cougars a talented team, but they are extremely athletic and physically imposing, Pittman said.
“During the National Anthem I thought we were playing against a pro team and we looked like a high school team to be honest with you,” Pittman said. “WSU is a very good, physical and quality possession-oriented team. So the fact that our players stood up to them and held their own, I am very proud of them for that.”
The Cougars, who have yet to lose a game this season, currently sit at 5-0-2 and are the best team the Vandals have played all year, Pittman said.
“I would have loved to defend like this against some of our other opponents, but what matters is we are getting it right now — pieces are falling into place and moving into this week of training as we get ready for Grand Canyon,” Pittman said. “I am excited about what we’ve got going on and I am looking forward to this week.”