By Dave Wagner
The Lone Star Conference appears competitive from top to bottom in women’s soccer, and the Northeastern State Lady Reds may be the best proof of that.
Coming off a 2-1 upset of league-leading and nationally-ranked Texas A&M-Commerce earlier in the week, NSU returned to earth on Friday with a 3-1 loss to Eastern New Mexico University — which entered the day in last place — at the ENMU soccer field.
Just prior to beating Commerce, the Lady Reds (8-7-1, 2-3-1 LSC) had lost to Southwestern Oklahoma and tied Texas Woman’s, both teams in the lower half of the standings.
“We made mistakes today, but I give credit to Eastern New Mexico,” said NSU coach Charlie Mitchell, a native of Scotland. “They were on their toes and took advantage.”
It was a crucial victory for the Zias (9-8, 2-4), who likely still need to win two of their final three matches to make it to the six-team LSC tournament in early November.
“Hopefully, we’ll be there,” said freshman forward Lezlie Varner. “We still have a lot of work to get there, but if we keep playing well I think we should be able to do it.”
Meantime, the loss put the Lady Reds’ tourney hopes in jeopardy. Their remaining matches are against teams in the upper half of the standings.
“We have to win two of the next three,” Mitchell said. “We’re not out of it, but maybe this will serve as a pick-me-up (in terms of intensity). We seem to play our best against the better teams.”
ENMU, which prior to Friday had scored only eight of its 30 goals this season before halftime, took advantage of a flukeish goal and Varner’s rebound tally for a 2-0 lead at the break.
The Zias broke on top about midway through the half when Nicole Bregler’s corner kick was bobbled by NSU goalkeeper Chelsey Hill. In the scramble in front of the net, ENMU junior Jessica Rosas was credited with a tap-in goal past Hill.
“It’s golden when you get an early goal,” ENMU coach Travis McCorkle said. “We haven’t been able to get (many) goals in the first half.
“Today, I think it made all the difference, and it put a lot of pressure on (Northeastern).”
About 10 minutes later, Varner found herself alone on a breakaway. She fired at Hill, who deflected the shot, but Varner punched in the carom for her second goal of the season.
“I wanted to do it on the first (attempt), but it came off the goalie and I was able to follow my shot,” Varner said.
NSU’s Kacey Joe Hohenberger scored about 10 minutes into the second half, but ENMU restored its two-goal cushion when freshman Lauren Standefer converted a penalty kick in the 62nd minute.
ENMU freshman Amanda Vanlandingham had nine saves in goal, several on challenging opportunities, as the Zias improved to 5-1 at home this season.
“Amanda was equal to everything that they threw at her,” McCorkle said. “The best thing for Amanda today was that when she made a save, it was a ‘clean’ save.”
ENMU 3, Northeastern State 1
Northeastern State 0 1 — 1
ENMU 2 1 — 3
ENM — Jessica Rosas (Nicole Bregler), 23:40
ENM — Lezlie Varner (unassisted), 33:36
NSU — Kacie Joe Hohenberger (Charlotte Dinsdale), 54:39
ENM — Lauren Standefer (penalty kick), 61:05
Shots on goal — Northeastern State 10, Eastern New Mexico 8. Corner kicks — Northeastern State 5, Eastern New Mexico 7. Saves — Northeastern State 5 (Chelsey Hill 5), Eastern New Mexico 9 (Amanda Vanlandingham 9). Yellow cards — Northeastern State 1 (Michelle Clark), Eastern New Mexico 1 (Bregler). Records — Northeastern State 8-7-1 (2-3-1), Eastern New Mexico 9-8-0 (2-4-0). A — 72.