After opening the season with a draw on April 4 against Pacific Lutheran University, the Western Washington University women’s soccer team got their chance to rebound against Saint Martin’s University.
The Vikings entered the game 0-0-1 on the season while the Saints entered 1-7-0. This is the 25th meeting between the two teams all-time, with Western holding a 22-2-1 record against Saint Martin’s.
The game kicked off at Robert S. Harrington Field at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20, Western wearing their home blues, the Saints in their red kits.
The game started with early pressure from the Saints, as they tried to force Western into an early error. The Vikings responded to the pressure with an early chance for junior forward, Dayana Diaz, who got behind the Saints’ defense but was unable to find the back of the net.
Just moments later, Vikings freshman midfielder, Ashley Nguyen used quick feet to weave around multiple defenders but had her cross blocked.
Twenty minutes into the game, Nguyen made another run through the defense and found senior midfielder Grace Eversaul in the box, but Eversaul was called offside.
The moment of the match happened a few seconds later. A great pass by Eversaul found sophomore forward, Estera Levinte, who made an excellent run into the box. Levinte found senior midfielder Darby Doyle on the cutback pass, and Doyle found the back of the net to open the scoring.
“It felt so great to be back on the field,” said Doyle, who was playing her 70th career game for the Vikings.
A few minutes after the opening goal, Saint Martin’s midfielder, Lexi Caceres, received a yellow card after a rough tackle, setting up a free kick for Western.
After an unsuccessful free kick, Western got the ball back around midfield and attempted another fast-paced attack. Combined with runs by Levinte and Doyle, a cross from Doyle reached freshman forward Zola Carbone, whose shot nearly scored, but an exceptional save from the Saints’ goalkeeper kept the ball out.
Just a minute later, the ball bounced around the top of Saint Martin’s box, and fell to the feet of Nguyen who attempted to chip the goalkeeper, but her shot hit the top crossbar.
Those back-to-back goalscoring opportunities would have given the Vikings a large lead heading into halftime, but when the first half buzzer rang, the score was still just 1-0.
The Saints came out firing in the second half, retaining the majority of possession for the first 15 minutes of the half. This resulted in a chance for Saints’ defender Melissa Rivas, who was called offside before the shot could come off.
The Vikings had to do a lot of defensive work early in the second half, including a few clean saves from senior goalkeeper Natalie Dierickx.
After a solid defensive showing from Western, the Vikings had a chance to get their second goal around the 60 minute mark of the game. Carbone nearly had her first goal in her college career, but her shot just missed the open net.
The game produced a period of intense back-and-forth pressure from both teams, but neither would budge. The next best chance for the Vikings was in the 75th minute, when Carbone was once again denied after a save by Saints’ goalkeeper Ali Campigotto.
Another opportunity for the Vikings appeared moments later when Doyle had a chance for her second goal of the game, but her shot just missed the top left corner.
In the final moments of the game, Carbone and redshirt freshman Drew Baty each had shots, but again both were saved by Campigotto.
One last chance for the Saints in the final seconds was quickly shut down by Western’s tough defense and a great play by redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Abigail Trengove.
The final whistle blew and the Vikings held on to a 1-0 victory over the Saints.
Travis Connell, Western women’s head soccer coach was satisfied with the result and was glad to get another game played.
“It was great to be out here playing. Another game to get better,” said Connell.
Western senior goalkeeper Natalie Dierickx was happy to get the win, because it helps the team gain confidence heading into the thick of the season.
“This was definitely such a big step for us. To be able to get that confidence, not just as a team, but individually as well. It just makes us even more excited coming into the game against SPU,” said Dierickx.
The Vikings have a short turnaround this week, with two games just four days apart, but Connell feels confident that the players will be good to go for their next match.
“It is really the recovery, for sure. We managed the minutes really well today,” said Connell.
The Vikings will play their next game against the rival Seattle Pacific University on Saturday, April 24 at 4 p.m. No fans are allowed in person, but all the games can be viewed via YouTube live stream.