By Dave Wagner, Freedom New Mexico
Cruising towards victory, Eastern New Mexico University’s women suddenly found themselves fighting off Adams State.
The Grizzlies, whose roster includes 18 freshmen, scored with less than six minutes left and then had some chances down the stretch. But the Zias were equal to the task and escaped with a 3-2 win Friday at the ENMU pitch.
Junior forward Samantha Lawrence earned her third career hat trick, and second this season — on three first-half shots — and the Zias (5-4) made it stand up.
ENMU won for the fifth time in six matches and improved to 5-0 at home.
“It was a tale of two halves,” first-year ENMU coach Ray Nause said. “We had the better of the play in the first half, and they had the far better of the play in the second half.
“Fortunately for us, they didn’t put many (shots) in the back of the net.”
Adams State (1-9) had seven of its 11 shots on goal in the second stanza. The Grizzlies closed to 3-2 when senior forward Michelle Reed angled in a free kick from the right wing at the 84:26 mark.
“We’re a pretty young group,” said second-year coach Tom Cliff, adding he pretty much cleaned house after a four-win campaign in 2007. “We often play nine or 10 freshmen at a time. But we’re learning — our last two games have been one-goal losses.”
Adams State had two shots stopped by the Zias in the remaining time. They missed a final chance late when freshman Jessica Hellweg, who scored their first goal, passed to a wing from the front of the net, allowing the Zias to smother the play more easily.
“It was like they came out with a whole new team in the second half,” ENMU junior defender Michelle Sumner said. “I think we got a little comfortable with the score, (but) I don’t think we played down.”
Sumner said the defense got busy down the stretch.
“We really marked them up tight,” she said. “Our goal was to play direct and out,” meaning just clear the ball from the scoring zone whenever possible.