RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The Thunderbird soccer team opened the 2017 season Friday night with a match against the UC Riverside Highlanders in California. The Thunderbirds were able to stave off the brunt of the attack from UCR, but one lone goal would be the difference as they dropped the match 1-0.
“The first half we were a bit anxious, but that is to be expected now that we are into the season and we’re on the road,” head coach Fred Thompson said. “It wasn’t our best soccer to start with, but we battled and it went okay. We had a good talk at halftime, straightened some things out and they did fantastic in the second half. We stepped up the pressure all around, we played with more intensity and we created two unbelievable chances.”
The Highlanders came out firing in the first half taking 12 shots in just the first 45 minutes of play and outshooting the Thunderbirds 12 to 1. Thunderbird goalkeeper Kaitlyn Caldera shined in the first half making four saves on five shots on goal from the Highlanders. The lone goal for UCR came in the 33rd minute when forward Ashley Webb put one past Caldera from eight yards out.
The second half went much better for the Thunderbirds as they held the Highlanders to just four shots in the entire half. Caldera added another save bringing her total to five on the night and holding Riverside scoreless in the second half. The Thunderbird offense found a little more life in the second half as well, taking four shots, including a header off the crossbar from Jessica French, but ultimately could not break through.
“Everyone contributed in the second half and we fought until the last second. I think it is a fantastic starting point and we will continue to build from here,” Thompson said.
The Thunderbirds only had five fouls while the Highlanders finished with 13. Senior Jahna Tacson lead the Thunderbirds in shots on goal with two good chances Friday night.
On Sunday, SUU scored first on a goal from Payton Wells, but five unanswered goals by Boise State gave the Broncos a 5-1 win in Idaho. The T-Birds will take on Wyoming and UNLV this coming weekend.