GAME REPORT: Texas Soccer over University of Houston 3-0
(HOUSTON) In a rough and tumble evening in Houston, the Longhorns put in three goals against U of H and won a shutout victory over the Cougars.
Goalkeeper Alexa Gaul finished the night with a clean sheet, with Longhorn goals coming from Nina Frausing Pedersen, Lexi Harris, and Kristin Cummins.
The game started with the Cougars on attack, exhibiting fairly rough and aggressive play, a quality they would display for most of the game. The Cougars were able to dominate possession in the first fifteen minutes before the tide turned and the Horns began to control the ball.
The first scoring chance for the Horns came at sixteen minutes in when Taylor Knaack faced a high bouncing ball directly in front of the Cougars’ goal and almost had a solid header on frame. A minute later, Hannah Higgins made a run from the left side with space in front. Hannah fired a shot from her left foot at fifteen yards out, aiming for the short side, but just missed left and found the outside of the netting.
At the 22 minute mark, Hannah Higgins was fouled just outside the box. Nina Frausing Pedersen took the penalty kick for the Horns. Pedersen’s shot was directly on goal, but Cougar goalkeeper, George Sydney wrapped it up.
Three minutes later, with the Horns on the attack again, Taylor Knaack received a hard foul from a Houston defender at about forty-five yards out from goal. Nina F Pedersen, the Horns’ go-to player for penalty kicks on the night, set up to take her shot. Pedersen hit a long shot in, bouncing the ball in the goal mouth where it ricocheted in.
(The scorekeeper’s sheet at halftime showed this as a goal for Nina F Pedersen unassisted. Later, Lucy Keith was credited with the goal and the assist went to Pedersen. The UofH media department credited the goal to Lexi Harris in their report. .. I think we’re giving the goal to Nina Frausing Pedersen.)
After the restart, Texas was immediately on the attack again. Less than two minutes after Keith’s goal, Lexi Harris launched a shot from 25 yards out on the left side. A beautiful strike, the ball went upper right corner on the Houston goalkeeper, and directly in for Texas’ second goal of the night.
At thirty-three minutes in, Knaack, in the offensive zone, was again fouled by the Cougars, this time at 30 yards out. Pedersen took the PK and launched a beautiful shot high on goal that was batted over the crossbar by Houston goalkeeper, George Sydney.
At around the thirty-five minute mark, Amanda Lisberger was taken down in a harsh foul at midfield. This time Lucy Keith took the penalty kick and got the ball to Vanessa Ibewuike who led a charge that was turned back when a Horns player was called just offsides.
At thirty six minutes in, Houston charged down field on a breakaway opportunity. Alexa Gaul came way out of goal to the top of the penalty area to shut it down. Gaul threw her body across the path of the ball and took away a scoring chance by the Cougars. Over the course of the evening, Gaul came several times to stop breakaway chances including one three minutes later.
At forty-one minutes, the Horns had a scary moment when Stacy-Ann Smith collided knee to knee with a Houston player. Smith went down in pain and play was stopped for several minutes while Smith received attention from the trainers. The crack of the collision was heard well up into the stands. Fortunately, Smith was able to stand and walk off the field under her own power, and in fact would return later in the second half.
At the 43rd minute, Houston’s Kelsey Zamora was given a yellow card for a hard foul on Gabby Zarnegar. Gabby was none too happy with the foul and began having words with Zamora. Horns captain, Lucy Keith, showing great leadership, came over to settle things down, preventing any further penalties from being called. Pedersen’s subsequent penalty kick was just out of reach of Keith who was stretching out for a header in the goal area.
The first half ended with Texas up 2-0.
First half stats:
- 7 shots for Texas, 2 shots for Houston.
- 3 shots on goal for Texas (including 2 goals), zero shots on goal for Houston
- 1 corner kick for Texas, 1 corner kick for Houston
In the second half, the Cougars had a chance to get on the board at the 50 minute mark when Sami Sackos shot from the left side. The ball rolled right across the goal mouth going wide of the right post.
Minutes later Jessica Zavalza had a run for Houston and shot high over the Texas goal.
The Longhorns then had multiple shots on goal. Lexi Harris attacked the offensive zone, executing a beautiful Cruyff turn ten yards beyond the box. The ball served in was shot over the crossbar by Knaack in the 59th minute.
A minute later Kristin Cummins had a run on goal. Her shot glanced off the Houston goalkeeper and over the back line. On the ensuing corner Taylor Knaack served the ball in, and Nina F Pedersen got a head on it but the ball went over the crossbar.
At 63 minutes, Texas served an unbelievable cross right into the goal box and Hannah Higgins just missed getting a foot on it at point blank range as she was charging in toward goal.
Then at 66 minutes in, Taylor Knaack had a golden opportunity as Texas fans held their collective breaths in the stands. Houston’s goalkeeper, George Sydney, was caught way out of goal and a bouncing ball came down out of the air right to Knaack who stood ten yards out from a wide open goalmouth. Knaack, whose eyes were upward tracking the ball all the way, perhaps didn’t know that there was no one between her and the goal and she pounded a shot out of the air with her right foot. From close range, the ball sailed high over the crossbar.
At 70 minutes, Gabby Zarnegar had a shot very nearly on goal that sailed just wide.
Around the 71st minute, the Houston offense gained new life and the Horns were under pressure. Fortunately, Texas had a 2 goal lead and so we were very unlikely to see a repeat of last Friday night against Loyola Marymount. In that Friday game, the Horns only had a one goal lead at the 70 minute mark and LMU’s star striker, Tawni Martino, got the equalizer. In the Monday night game, though, the extra goal meant the Horns had a cushion, preventing any possibility of a single, random, defensive mistake for an equalizer.
At 73 minutes, Taylor Knaack was fouled hard again. Nina F Pedersen‘s penalty kick (a hard shot) went wide right.
At 76 minutes in, Houston took a corner kick that was grabbed out of the air by Alexa Gaul.
Then Nina F Pedersen had her own breakaway that got shut down around the 79th minute.
At around the 80th minute, Kayla Walker for Houston, was given a penalty kick from directly left of the Texas goal and from outside the box. Walker got to take her PK twice as the first kick was called back by the referee. Fortunately no goal resulted.
With one minute remaining in the game, Kristin Cummins broke through with the ball for a 1 on 1 with the Houston goalkeeper. She shot left side and scored.
Stats from complete game:
- 14 shots for Texas, 8 shots for Houston.
- 5 shots on goal for Texas (including 3 goals), 1 shot on goal for Houston with no goals
Unfortunately the official stats for the game may be in error. The stat sheet lists 1 corner kick for each team, both in the first half, while my notes show more than two corner kicks took place on the field. (I have Knaack taking a corner in the 2nd half which I guess was unrecorded.) But, alas, no big deal. Also, my account of the action above differs slightly from the official play by play recorded by the UofH stats recorder, but if you see any mistakes please let me know.
Lucy Keith and Nina Frausing Pedersen are like granite on the back line. Great defenders. Also, Lucy in the box with her 6 foot height is a huge plus for us on corners (at both ends of the field!) and Nina F Pedersen’s placement and skill on penalty kicks is top notch.
Alexa Gaul’s play is just outstanding. Not on the stat sheet in terms of saves are all of the shots she shut down from Houston breakaways. Alexa is fearless! She charged out of her goal multiple times to put the stop on Houston attackers long before they could get a shot off. One of these stops on Monday night, I believe, was from outside the box where she threw her body into the ball and the oncoming attacker. Alexa is on the ball in a big way and not to be triffled with!
After 4 games for the Horns so far (including 2 preseason games), no goals yet for Taylor Knaack. Not for a lack of effort though! How great it would be to see Taylor get that first goal of the season, especially so her confidence can build. She’s taken plenty of shots and has just missed a couple of times. Having TK on the scoreboard soon would be great as we’re going to need her scoring down the stretch.
Post-Game INTERVIEW with Texas midfielder Lexi Harris
• Q: Thoughts about the game tonight. How did it go for you?
I thought we came out with lots of intensity. We lost a game against LMU on Friday. We just wanted to come out with lots of fire and intensity and really show everyone what we’ve been working on and what we want to do on the field. I thought we played the ball well. I thought we defended well as a team. And marking in the box, that’s what we’ve been working on the most. I thought we did well with that. But really we just drove and drove and pushed and pushed and pushed until we scored. We took care of our chances.
• Q: Did the team play differently tonight than they did on Friday night against LMU? What was different about tonight than Friday night?
I just think it was the intensity and the focus on the game. We were ready tonight. We weren’t making those little mistakes that cost us in the LMU game. We were really focused on just the little things. And I think that’s what took care of the game tonight.
Next up for the Horns: University of Georgia in Athens, GA on Friday, August 26