Oct. 5, 2012
RUSTON - Despite injuries suffered mid-game to the goalkeeper and leading goal scorer, Louisiana Tech used a late surge of offense to stun No. 19 Denver on a goal scored in the final two minutes to tie the match at 1-1 and come away with a draw at the Lady Techster Soccer Complex.
Head coach Kevin Sherry was speechless after seeing his Lady Techsters (9-1-3) battle for the full 110 minutes and come away with the tie against the Pioneers (9-1-4), but after reflecting on how proud he was of his girls he discussed their tremendous effort versus a tremendous opponent.
"The ladies, I don't know how they did it or what they did, but they did it," said an elated Sherry. "They are some awesome players on [Denver]. Absolutely top-notch, best players in the country so we had to be focused and we had to keep our discipline and our shape. Then the ladies were just absolutely focused on what they were doing.
The Pioneers came in with one of the best offenses in the countries with one of the best forwards in the country in Kristen Hamilton, but the backline held firm and only allowed 17 total shots, compared to reigning WAC champion Utah State who allowed them 24 shots.
"We played a defensive game," said Sherry. "We were here because we respected their ranking. We had to be realistic and we caught them on the break when we could. The ladies did everything we asked them to do."
The match seemed destined for overtime with the score 0-0 much of the way, but a hopeful lob in the 68th minute towards the goal managed to hit the crossbar, and when Updyke leaped for the save she came down and injured her arm, leaving a loose ball and an empty net for Katy Van Lieshout who put it in for her fourth goal of the season and the 1-0 lead.
Backup goalkeeper Corina Brown had to come in cold off the bench and replace Updyke for the remainder of the period. Prior to Updyke going out, another key player for the Techsters went out as well in leading goal scorer Emily Brennan with a foot injury, but once she saw Updyke go down she knew she had to just wrap it up and go back in.
LA Tech would be on attack mode the rest of the period putting as much pressure on Denver to try and get just one opportunity to tie it up. That opportunity came in the 89th minute on a free kick by Erica Stewart as the clock ticked down, and Brennan was able to find what little space she could in a congested box and get enough of a foot on the ball for the goal, her sixth of the season.
"We have been working on that specific free kick all practice, all week for like two weeks at the end of practice for like 30 minutes," said Brennan. "So we just did the runs and it just ended up working out just like it does in practice. [Denver] kind of all went back with the ball and then when Andrea headed it back to front post that's where I was."
"We decided well we may as well lose 10-0 than 1-0 so we went for it," added Sherry. "We pushed players forward. We left players open in the back. We've been practicing those set plays day in and day out and now they can see the reward to practice."
Two 10-minute overtime periods saw the Pioneers get three heart-pounding corner kicks and some open touches in the box, but the defense was able to collapse on the ball quickly and clear it, preserving the 1-1 tie.
Celebrations erupted all throughout the match and especially as the clock struck zero in the second overtime period as a rowdy crowd watched on to see the amazing comeback and effort by LA Tech.
The players and coaches rejoiced, but they know another conference test awaits them right around the corner and are definitely up for the task just like they were this evening.
"Now we know what we are capable of," said Brennan. "We just tied the team that was picked to win the conference so now we know what we are capable of. We know we can't do anything less than that."
That next match will be a quick turnaround as LA Tech will face New Mexico State at the Lady Techster Soccer Complex on Sunday at 1 p.m.
For complete coverage of LA Tech Soccer, please follow @LATechSOC on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at www.LATechSports.com.