A strong defensive effort and a dominating, blitzing offense helped the Idaho Vandals defeat the Utah Valley Wolverines by a 3-1 margin today, in the first home game for the Vandals this season.
After failing to convert on their few scoring chances in their first two games, the Vandals’ (1-2) offensive prowess was on full display with crisp, clean passes and strong shots. The Vandals fired off 23 shots, while yet another strong defensive effort from their back line held the Wolverines (0-3) to only 12.
“We played with a lot of composure and speed,” coach Peter Showler said. “We wanted to take what we learned from the first two games and build on it.”
And build they did. Unlike previous games, the Vandals came out ready to play from the start. From the drop of the ball, the Vandal offense put the pressure on the Wolverines, repeatedly driving deep into the Wolverines’ zone and picking their defense apart with phenomenal passing plays.
Idaho’s effort was rewarded early when junior Jennifer Hull dove into the zone and fired a shot wide. Instead of giving up on the play, Ashley Perez beat out her defender for the rebound and fired a shot past Wolverines goaltender Tasha Bell to give the Vandals the early lead.
Hull wasn’t done yet; less than five minutes later she again broke into the Wolverine zone, deftly beat out her defender and drew another, leaving Chelsea Small open in front of the goal. With a flick of her foot, Hull planted the ball perfectly in front of Small, who tapped it in the back of the net for her first career goal.
The Vandals’ third goal came in the middle of the second half, when the Wolverines were whistled for a foul in front of the net. Senior Sari Morrison was awarded a penalty kick, and drove it home past keeper Hailey Brown, who replaced Bell at the start of the second half.
“We’ve been working on getting numbers in the box and connecting,” Hull said. “It was nice to see both things coming together.”
Not to be outdone, the Vandals’ defensive line held steady and never gave the Wolverines a chance to set up. The Vandals repeatedly picked off errant passes and turned them into scoring chances thanks to the team’s speed and positioning.
With less than five minutes to go, the Wolverines pulled off a late surge, ruining goalkeeper Anna Sandman’s bid for a shutout by scoring in the 87th minute. The surge came too little too late for Utah Valley, and despite the late goal, the Vandals got their first home win of the season.
“This win is a great confidence booster,” Morrison said. “We worked hard all week and are really happy to win.”
Hull finished the game with two assists, giving her a total of five for her career and tying her for ninth all-time at the University of Idaho. Nine different Vandals registered shots in front of a crowd of 541, one of the largest for a home soccer game. Sunday’s game was Youth Soccer Appreciation Day, featuring Moscow United club teams scrimmaging at half time. Showler, who was extremely happy with the turnout, was thankful for Moscow United’s help and support, as well as everyone else who came out to support the Vandals..
“I want to thank every one of them because it makes our job a lot better,” Showler said. “Moscow is a tremendous community and if we can keep winning, we’re going to keep dragging out crowds like that.”
The Vandals have a week of rest before heading down to Boise for the Governor’s Cup, where they will play Idaho State on Friday and Montana on Sunday. The Vandals shut out Idaho State 2-0, their lone win last season, and lost to Montana, 2-0, in last year’s Governor’s Cup.
(A great photo gallery of this game can be found at GoVandals.net)