With consecutive wins against Seattle U and now Denver — the latter of which featured a four-goal assault on Sunday night to complete a perfect Labor Day weekend for Washington State sports — the Cougar soccer’s slow start to the season now seems to be firmly in the rear view mirror.
The Cougs improved to 3-1-1 with their wins against the Redhawks and Pioneers, and the goals that seemed to be on the verge of coming have finally started raining down.
WSU opened the season with a loss to Michigan and a draw to Portland in which the Cougs felt hard done in each: They had combined for 35 shots in the two games, 16 of which were on goal, compared to just 12 and 8 for their opponents. After a comfortable win over Eastern Washington, the Cougs were just 45 seconds away from returning to that exasperated feeling again.
The Cougars got out to a 1-0 lead against Seattle when Grayson Lynch found the net in the 20th minute for her first goal of the season. The Cougars largely controlled the action after that, but Seattle U nicked a goal in the 62nd minute, mostly against the run of play: A long cross into the box was misjudged by Jenna Studer, and the ball fell to the feet of Kaylee Coatney, who poked it past a charging Nadia Cooper to equalize.
It was just the third shot of the game — and first on goal — for the Redhawks.
WSU went on to apply tremendous amounts of pressure from there, searching for a winner. They appeared to have it with just over 5 minutes to go when Sydney Studer won a 50/50 ball in the box and hammered it home, but the ref — after initially signaling for the goal by pointing to the center — instead called a foul on Studer for going through the back of the defender to get it.
It looked to be heading for another frustrating draw when Jenna Studer made up for her earlier mistake in a huge way.
With less than a minute to go, the Cougars put their 10th(!) corner into play. Grayson Lynch’s cross floated to the far post where Mykiaa Miniss — who just has a knack for getting involved in these sorts of things — was waiting. She calmly sent a pass back across the mouth of the goal, where an attacking Jenna Studer snuck in behind the defense and poked it home for the winner with 45 seconds to play:
That led to the floodgates finally opening on Sunday against Denver, as the Cougs wasted little time piling up the goals.
In the 5th minute, Alyssa Gray ran onto a ball played into space by Makiaa Minniss and got off a nice strike on the half volley, forcing Nerea Arrazola into a save. She was unable to do more than parry it to her right, however, and Margie Detrizio cleaned up the loose ball with a calm finish placed into the left corner to give the Cougs an early lead with her fourth goal of the season.
Twenty minutes later, Sydney Studer netted her second goal of the season. After finding the ball at her feet on the left side following a nifty flick on header by Detrizio, Studer calmly sent the ball back to the far corner to beat the keeper, who was stuck in soccer purgatory:
The rout was on 20 minutes later when Marin Whieldon made it 3-0 with her first goal of the season — a well-placed header on a teasing cross by Lily Boyden:
Denver would go on to score a couple of goals in the second half as the Cougars heavily rotated players, but the game was never in doubt — particularly with Lynch putting the exclamation point on the proceedings. You won’t see many goals of higher quality than this one over the course of the season:
“Overall, great win,” WSU coach Todd Shulenberger said. “You know, we’re back on track — we’ve had a result [a win or a draw] four straight games now, so there’s a lot to leave here positive about. I’m definitely happy about that.”
In all, the Cougars outshot Denver 27-7 with an 8-4 advantage in shots on goal.
“Another great performance from the shots (perspective),” Shulenberger said. “I mean, 20-some shots again, the ball went in tonight — and I actually think we could have got a couple more, easily. We rung the crossbar a couple times, so, yeah I like the response ... just like winning is contagious, scoring is contagious — you’ve got to keep shooting to get the ball in the net, so I’m happy with that.”
Like any coach, though, Shulenberger sees areas for improvement.
“(We’ve) given up some weak goals — I mean, every goal we’ve given up this year has been weak,” Shulenberger said. “No disrespect, (but) the reality is they’ve been weak goals, so we’ve got to solve that. We will fix that, and we’ll make sure people aren’t comfortable and we’ll keep moving forward.”
The Cougs get the week off before hosting Cal Poly next Sunday. The Mustangs are 2-0-3, most recently losing at No. 12 Stanford on Sunday.