A resilient Sonoma State Women’s Soccer team beat Cal State East Bay 1-0 at home on Thursday, slipping by the eleventh-ranked Pioneers in a game that was closer in score than it was in competition.
A late goal in the final five minutes of the second half from SSU forward Sam Layman, a deep right field cross from near-midfield, put the Seawolves up 1-0 with little time for the Pioneers to recover. It was her third on the season.
By winning their second in a row, they solidified their third-place position in the CCAA rankings with 25 points, behind only Chico State’s 26 and UC San Diego’s 27, both of which have contributed to SSU’s loss column and pose significant threats to their postseason aspirations.
Despite the close score, CSUEB needed their goalkeeper, Brianna Vasquez-Ortiz, in top form as she was bombarded by shot after shot in the second half, making a few excellent saves in the process, including a brilliant effort in swatting away an early second-half shot by SSU’s Molly Murphy.
In total, SSU put up three times as many shots on goal (9) as CSUEB (3).
The disparity in skill and conditioning was apparent from the outset, as head coach Emiria Dunn’s Seawolves were more aggressive, skilled, and precise than Robin Hart’s Pioneers, who spent a good portion of the opening half struggling to match the tempo of the home team and fend-off the constant pressure by its talented forwards.
The most unsettled SSU looked was early in the second half, when CSUEB’s Aulani Fernandez threw Bella Amyx to the ground during a dust-up at midfield, resulting in some restraining and choice words from both teams. The teams were ultimately separated and no cautions were delegated.
It was just one example of poor temperament in a match filled with frustration, physicality, and three yellow cards, all for the Hayward-based squad, and all of which demonstrated their frustration.
The statistics show remarkable dominance for the home team as SSU enjoyed a significant advantage in ball possession and passing.
Layman, often roaming wide right on the pitch and covering significant ground when she felt it necessary, saw a solid first-half shot on goal deflected by Vasquez-Ortiz five minutes before the half.
It would eventually become a sign of things to come in the second half.
Despite utilizing fewer substitutions overall, Dunn’s women proved to be the better-conditioned crew, outlasting the first-half lull in offensive activity to come storming back, dominating the second half in style, taking their time with positioning and tight, one-touch passing.
The Pioneer’s effort cannot be faulted, however much craft or discernment they lacked, as they could have gotten ahead early or tied late on some great shots by Jordan Lemieux, Liz Hernandez, and Abby Buitrago, all saved or deflected by SSU goalkeeper Kristen Spear.
At the final whistle, SSU was able to celebrate a win that could have, and likely should have, been easier, although the regular season was not over just yet.
Their difficulty scoring continued on Saturday in the last game of the regular season, when SSU lost 1-0 in double overtime to CSU Monterey Bay on a penalty kick late in the final period. It was their third loss of the season, now leaving their CCAA record at 8-3-1 and 10-3-3 overall.
After another game in which SSU owned a significant advantage in possession and shots on goal, their inability to convert left the game scoreless after 90 minutes of regulation, and despite valiant effort in both overtime periods, the game ended on a sour note when CSUMB midfielder Melissa Wilson converted a low penalty kick passed goalkeeper Kristen Spear.
It was only her third goal allowed in the last seven games and ninth on the season.
CCAA playoffs begin Tuesday, Oct. 30 and all signs point to a home game against sixth-seeded Cal State LA, a team that the Seawolves beat 1-0 with deflected goal late in the game back on Sept. 23.