GEORGETOWN, Texas — After an afternoon of intricate ball movement punctuated by beautiful passes, it was a direct long-range free kick from Romie Reyna that proved to be the difference in the Southwestern University Pirates women's soccer team's 1-0 victory over Austin College.
Reyna connected from deep in the middle of the field, finding the top back left corner of the net at the 66:59 mark for the match-winning goal.
"I'm feeling pretty happy about getting out of here with not just a win, but a shutout win," Southwestern head coach Linda Hamilton said. "I'm really proud of the fact we're tough to score on and we want to carry that into the conference tournament."
For most of the match, scoring was difficult for both teams, heading into the half scoreless despite an 11-2 advantage in shots for the Pirates before the break.
Throughout the entire match, the Pirates moved the ball beautifully, mixing long runs from the back, indirect attacks through the short passing game on the sidelines, and direct attacks via long passes from the middle of the field.
Senior midfielder Kierstyn Luckock delivered perfectly weighted passes and the Pirates broke through time and again, moving the Austin College defense around and then striking at opportune moments, but failed to capitalize.
In the first half it was because the forwards were out of sync, with the Pirates falling offsides six times to short circuit scoring opportunities.
"We were expecting them to run an offsides trap but they were very organized in back and disrupted us a little bit," Hamilton said. "We couldn't get that final pass and the timing of our runs to not be offsides. We were just a little too enthusiastic.
"We stayed with it and gave ourselves a chance to win by not giving up opportunities for them to score and over time it was only a matter of time for us."
Junior defensive player Mallory Harkins was all over the field for the Pirates, seemingly beating Austin College to every 50-50 ball, jumping passing lanes, and winning every ball in the air. She helped pressure Austin College by converting each steal into long runs, keying the Pirates' transition attack.
"She was the Defensive Player of the Year her freshman year and she's been First Team All-Conference the past few years," Hamilton said. "She's just one of the most outstanding defenders."
Southwestern picked up its third consecutive shutout win—and ninth overall—by limiting Austin College to just five shots with goalie Mary Cardone only facing two non-threatening shots on goal.
With Harkins and others controlling the action, Southwestern was relentless with its attacks, finishing with 24 shots, including 12 on goal.
In the second half, it was Austin College goalie Maya Erwin stifling the Pirates' offense.
Erwin finished with 11 saves, helping to disrupt the Pirates' five corner kicks, making two saves through big collisions in front of the net.
At one point, Southwestern leading scorer Hallie Rutherford beat Erwin to a ball by the narrowest of margins, using a sliding kick to do so. Erwin also hit the ground, diving to stop the shot and leaving both on the floor giving a brief moment of mutual respect.
But no defense can bend that much without breaking and, as Hamilton said, it was only a matter of time before Austin College did with Reyna, the reigning SCAC Defensive Player of the Week, booming the shot through.
With the win, the Pirates finish the regular season 10-5 and 8-3 in conference play. Having already clinched the second seed in the SCAC Championships next weekend at Trinity University in San Antonio, Southwestern earned a bye in the first round and will play the winner of the Texas Lutheran and University of Dallas match on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 1:30 p.m.