Sunday, September 9, 2012

Gonzaga falls in fourth straight one-goal contest to Seattle U

Redhawks celebrate winning strike by Verdoia (24) | Photos: Gerald Barnhart
Two days after a narrow 1-0 loss to the nationally-ranked (Soccer America) University of Washington, the Bulldogs came right at Seattle University with a fantastic wide open chance two minutes in the match, but the result proved to be an omen of what was to come as they were edged in overtime by the visitors.

A casual play by Redhawks defender Taylor Bolibol a minute and a half into the match in the back allowed Emma Dolcetti to steal the ball just outside the box and dish it squarely to Heather Johnson (Kennewick, WA), but the freshman mishit the ball with a wide open goal waiting.

It was the only good look for either side in an opening 45 that was otherwise only highlighted by the verbal battle between referee Jeremy Hanson and Gonzaga head coach Amy Edwards.

That poor final touch proved to be a theme for the remainder of the first half as Gonzaga was unable to take advantage of a visiting team that was not finding the opportunities to create offensive chances at the other end. Time after time bad touches on the ball or hesitation on shots and passes cost the Zags possession.

“It’s a typical Sunday game; it’s always going to be difficult to get yourself going and we talked to our team about that,” said Gonzaga associate head coach Derek Pittman. “To be honest, Seattle U did not play a game on Friday night so they came out probably with fresher legs but I thought we did a good job. We held them to only one shot. We just weren’t dangerous and dynamic on the attack.

“I thought we did a better job in the second half, but unfortunately if you don’t take your chances you leave yourself exposed and open to losing one late.”

Indeed, the second half did see a different team return to the pitch for Gonzaga, though, Seattle would get the first two chances as Shawna Anderson (Pasco, WA) got the ball after a long counter up the left side and took a shot from 14 yards out that was stopped by the sure-handed Susan Brown at the near post. Three minutes later a cross from Bolibol from the right corner into the box was headed wide of the near post from 10 yards out by Stephanie Verdoia.

Associate Head Coach Derek Pittman
In the 62nd minute, Edwards would finally be sent off by the referee with her last words “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings” being the final straw for Hanson. The already vocal Pittman would take things the rest of the way.

Two minutes later a 40-yard free kick from Katey Pennington (Boise, ID) found Lauren Luke for a glancing header that flashed wide of the far post. Another free kick from 30 yards a minute later by Tori Lee went flying through the box thigh-high, but went through the crowd untouched and wide of the far post.

The pressure continued for the Zags in the 67th with a throw-in leading to a great opportunity on a scramble inside the box where an attempt by Luke was blocked and a follow-up by Sila Tuiofea being stopped point-blank by goalkeeper Brianna Smallidge. Two minutes later a high pop-up deep in the box came down to Emily Eckman, whose close-range effort at the left post was stuffed by the keeper.

“We talked to them at halftime and really urged them to pick up the tempo; urged them to really have a sense of urgency about themselves, and I thought we did that,” Pittman said. “Again, we just lacked that last little piece to find the back of the net, whether it be a final pass to go get a cross off or finish the chances that we did have in the box.

Julie Woodward prepares Smallidge, Redhawks for overtime
“Their keeper came up with some decent saves; they blocked a few off the line – what can you say? We’ve got to find a way to score a goal. Not scoring any goals this weekend is very frustrating.”

Seattle would get the final good look of regulation with 16 minutes remaining when Kiana Kraft cut the ball in from the right edge of the area to Heather Thomas, whose one-timer went just wide.

Seattle did well to conserve themselves in the final 15 and went all-out against Gonzaga in the first session of overtime, getting three consecutive chances midway through the period.

Taylor Ritzman made a great run into the right side of the box four minutes in that forced a nice save from Brown at the near post. A minute later Melissa Busque drove into the right side of the box all alone, but with the goalkeeper guarding the near post she sent a low ball across the six that Ritzman was unable to get a foot on.

Ritzman would make up for the two missed chances by gathering the ball on the right side and sending it on goal where Verdoia slid in to knock it home from close range just a little over six minutes into extratime.

“Unfortunately we left ourselves exposed too much. We were trying to push for the goal and we left ourselves exposed at the back line,” Pittman said of Seattle’s consecutive chances and goal. “I contribute it to they haven’t played a game in nine days; they are gonna have fresher legs. We were coming off a loss to UW – top 25 – and they’ve got the fresh legs so in that sense it’s frustrating because I feel like they should have played a game on Friday, but they didn’t. So it showed in overtime. They had fresher legs and we didn’t.

“Maybe we should have been a little bit more conservative in overtime to kind of protect ourselves but we wanted a goal. We felt like we deserved something from the game. We were the better team on the day, for sure.”

The match was the fourth straight 1-0 result for Gonzaga. Prior to the loss Friday to the Huskies they had posted a pair of 1-0 wins on the road in Tennessee against Austin Peay and Vanderbilt with two goals from Kasey Rubosky (Spokane, WA).

“(Scoring consistency) is something we work on week in and week out. It’s not that we don’t have the ability. We’ve got a number of forwards that are capable of scoring goals. They’ve just been a little bit hesitant; just shy away from taking the chances that they do have. For some odd reason right now they don’t have the confidence in the final third to go at them and put the ball into the back of the net.

“I thought we defended very well, not giving up a lot of clear-cut chances really until the final goal. We just have to grow up, that’s the biggest thing right now. So many young players playing right now, we gotta grow up, and we gotta bounce back and figure out a way to get a result against Oregon State.

Next week Gonzaga is in Oregon for the Nike Invitational, playing Oregon State Friday in Corvallis and the University of Oregon Sunday in Eugene. Both games will be carried on the Pac-12 Networks.