The Gonzaga University women’s soccer team claimed victory against University of Nebraska-Omaha on Luger Field, 1-0.
Starting off with possession, the Zags came in relentlessly, but the Mavericks met them with force. Much of their defensive plays thwarted setups from GU defense and midfielders. The Zags were also noticeably off-kilter this evening, as many of their shots didn’t quite stick the landing.
“I think a lot of their system kind of threw us off,” said head coach Chris Watkins. “They played the five in the back, and so it was hard for us to find some space behind and beside them — to be able to go and go quickly.”
Still, GU chipped away at their defensive wall bit by bit. Sophomore forward Maddie Kemp played a big role in it, with many strong shots at the box — including at 8:27. Omaha’s sophomore goalkeeper Mia Reedtz Redhe Olsen was able to keep enough shots out of the box, yet ultimately their offense was weakened by messy passes and overcomplication.
What helped them stay in the clear was a massive assist from their defense, namely junior and senior defenders Allison Pelstring and Payton Stiles.
However, by the second half, the tide was turning in favor for the Zags.
Junior forward Lauren Elwer opened the half with a long shot on the Maverik’s goal, barely clearing the top of the goal. Kemp made a near-perfect shot toward the goal, but her shot was blocked by Omaha sophomore defender Grace Crockett.
Leaning into the heat, the Zags kept beating down at the Maverick’s defense. This was largely helped by efforts of midfielders such as freshman Willow Collins and junior Sophie Braun. The midfielders at GU were able to translate defensive recovery whenever the ball ran a little too close to home.
“I’m usually a center mid, so I think I’ve just gotten used to having my eyes up, trying to find people in like scenes and just open spaces,” Collins said. “I’m always trying to scan the field even if it feels a bit overwhelming, trying to find the open space for them.”
Eventually, their heavy hitting offense paid off. With an assist from Kemp and junior forward Erin Healy, freshman forward Kelsey Oyler landed the first goal of the game, bringing the score 1-0.
From then on, it was simply a game of keep away. For the following 25 minutes, the Zags kept the pressure on Omaha fifth year goalie Rachel Thigpen — who was switched in at halftime. By the time the clock struck 90, the Mavericks were unable to pierce Gonzaga’s defense.
“I think the lesson tonight was we can adjust mid-game and be able to adjust and react to a unique opponent,” Watkins said. “But we can fight and not have our best night and still find a way to win.”
The women’s soccer team begins their conference season on Oct. 2. They play Brigham Young University on Luger field next Saturday at 7 p.m. This game marks their longest win-streak in history with eight victories in a row.