Before a late goal spree, it was a frustrating afternoon for the Oklahoma State women’s soccer team.
The Cowgirls found the momentum to defeat San Francisco 3-0 on Sunday afternoon at Neal Patterson Stadium.
After a tight opening 30 minutes, OSU was the first team to leave the first gear. Five minutes before the break, Kim Rodriguez’s rainbow header beat USF goalkeeper Olivia Camera, but it was cleared off the line.
It set the tone for the rest of the match, as OSU dominated the second half. The Cowgirls had 10 shots and limited USF to one shot on target in the final 45 minutes. For much of the match, OSU’s superiority didn’t translate onto the scoreboard, though. At least five times, an OSU striker was sent clear for a breakaway, but she couldn’t connect the final ball to other teammates.
Early in the second half, Haley Woodard was on course for a one-on-one opportunity against Camera. A miscontrol allowed a USF defender to recover and forced Woodard to drift wide. A few minutes later, substitute Camy Huddleston had a bold attempt from a tight angle, but the ball found the post.
The crowd began to groan after missed opportunities. When Rodriguez converted a penalty kick in the 73rd minute after Huddleston was brought down illegally inside the penalty box, Carmichael breathed a sigh of relief.
“We started to wonder when it is tied like that if we are going to get one or the other team is,” Carmichael said. “In the end, three-nothing probably flattered us a little bit, but we knew if we kept plugging away we could wear them down.”
Marlo Zoller doubled the advantage five minutes later from Grace Yochum’s cross. Woodard got on the scoresheet in the 88th minute after a blistering solo run. Woodard, a senior, scored her third goal this season on her fifth attempt of the day.
Zoller said the late burst was a reward for the team’s patience.
“I felt like we have been running at the back quite a bit,” Zoller said. “We have opportunity because they were tiring but just not finishing, so when we finally get a goal in it, was just kind of, boost the morale. It was good.”
Hawn’s absence changes defensive lineup
The Cowgirls’ back three missed a vital piece as regular starter Elise Hawn didn’t play because of a tweaked hamstring on her left leg.
Sophomore Rachel VanFossen was inserted in Hawn’s position as the right center back.
When VanFossen took a break, right wingback Hannah Webb took the central role with Grace Neville filling in for her. Carmichael said the shuffle wasn’t ideal, but he remains confident in his players as long as they follow the system.
“We just try to find minutes there,” Carmichael said. “We have lost Anna Lawler already and then we lost Charme (Morgan), which are our two kids playing back, so we’ve got a little thin. We slid Hannah back, and Rachel and Grace Neville came off the bench and did a great job. Hopefully we’ll have Elise back because she is a good defender, but it is nice to see Rachel stepping in and did a good job.”
Carmichael’s low-block defensive system relies more on team efforts as players’ positioning is more important than individual defensive skills, allowing VanFossen to sync comfortably. VanFossen, a sophomore, had a quiet game, making no mistakes as OSU recorded its third clean sheet of the season. She also made a key block in the first half that bailed goalkeeper Dani Greenlee from a difficult one-timer.
Freshman Yochum contributes on offense, defense
On paper, Yochum was listed as a holding midfielder. Whenever OSU had an attacking opportunity, she sprinted into the 18-yard box to play as an auxiliary striker.
Yochum’s tendency to penetrate was key to link up OSU’s offense. The Cowgirls started with three strikers in Jaci Jones, Zoller and Woodard, but Jones and Zoller usually dropped deeper while defending.
Often, the Cowgirls’ lone striker Woodard drifted wide to pick up a pass, leaving nobody in the center to attack the 18-yard box. Yochum filled in the gap as her versatility offered another attacking threat.
Yochum could have had a goal in the first half as she met Woodard’s cross from five yards out, but her flick went straight into Camera. Her hardworking day ended when she picked out Zoller to record her first assist of the season.
Carmichael said Yochum preferred to roam at will, and he is happy to see her contribution on both sides of the field.
“We have been playing her back deeper a little bit next to Julia (Lenhardt),” Carmichael said. “But today in the second half, we gave her more license to go forward. She relishes that, and that is what she wants to play. She does a good job on both places, but whenever we push her up, she is a real threat to get in behind and score. It is nice to know we can play her both (offensively and defensively).”