In recent years, the Washington State soccer team has been nearly flawless in two facets: dispatching nonconference foes and defending their home field.
That pride brought a bit of an extra spark to Sunday’s game against Loyola Marymount, just two days after the Cougars were upset by Michigan at Lower Soccer Field.
Washington State was back to its winning ways Sunday, toppling the Lions 2-1 in a reverse of the score in its loss to the Wolverines.
Junior forward Elyse Bennett paved the way for the No. 13 Cougs (5-1-0) with an assist and a goal.
“I feel like coming off of Friday’s loss we all felt like we had something to prove to come out here and win on Sunday,” Bennett said. “So it’s obviously nice to get a win but it’s even better coming off a loss, getting back on track.”
The game also marked a milestone for Washington State coach Todd Shulenberger, who earned his 50th win with the program. Shulenberger is in his fifth season with the Cougars.
“It’s been four years and some change now and I guess we’re on 50,” Shulenberger said. “It’s a credit to to these girls and the staff I have here. I have a great staff and great group of girls that have been here now and alums, so just trying to work on the next one now.”
Shulenberger said he challenges his team to score in the first five minutes of a game, and the Cougars responded Sunday.
Washington State scored early on forward Morgan Weaver’s fifth goal of the season. Bennett flicked the ball up to Morgan on the right side and the senior tapped it past rushing goalkeeper Lee Erickson for a 1-0 WSU lead three minutes into the contest.
The lead didn’t last long, though, as the feisty Lions (0-5-2) bounced back five minutes later with a goal on the first of only two shots in the first half. LMU’s Maki Kono received the ball in the WSU box with space to shoot and fired it past Cougar goalkeeper Ella Dederick for the equalizer.
Washington State took the lead for good midway through the first period when Bennett used her head again, this time to score herself. LMU’s Erickson again rushed the ball, but Bennett popped it over the goalie’s reach for a 2-1 WSU advantage.
“The ball that Hannah (Goff) played in was nice,” Bennett said. “I saw the goalie come off the line, so I knew if I got something on it it would most likely go into the back of the net.”
LMU switched goalkeepers after WSU’s second goal and it proved to be the right move. Despite the Cougars outshooting the Lions 26-7, WSU was unable to find another goal the rest of the way.
LMU reserve goalie Sadie Kenny finished with seven saves. Dederick earned the win for the Cougs without recording a save.
The Cougars wrap up their nonconference slate this week with road games against Hawaii (Thursday) and Pepperdine (Sunday) in Honolulu.
“It was a gutsy performance,” Shulenberger said. “Our possession has gotta continue to be better. We’ve gotta be better in tighter moments ... and we want to get two wins going into conference play.”
Loyola Marymount 2 0—2
Washington State 1 0—1
Washington State — Morgan Weaver (Elyse Bennett), 3rd.
Loyola Marymount — Maki Kono (Jalyn Lupo), 8th.
Washington State — Elyse Bennett (Hannah Goff), 21st.
Shots — LMU 7, WSU 26.
Saves — LMU: Lee Erickson 2, Sadie Kenny 5; WSU: Ella Dederick 0.
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @StephanSports.