By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University men’s soccer team was struggling in the first half on Friday against Missouri Southern, but managed to get out with a scoreless tie.
The Greyhounds were never able to get anything going on Friday and lost 1-0 in sudden-death overtime to the Lions in a Southwest Soccer Conference match at the ENMU pitch.
The win was the first in conference play and on the road this season for Missouri Southern (3-7-0, 1-5-0 SSC), who got their winning goal when forward Neil Stoessel headed in a free kick by J.P. West about halfway through the first of two possible OT periods.
The Hounds and Lions are both striving to reach the upper echelon of the conference. Their three matches have all been decided by one goal — ENMU winning at Joplin, Mo., last year and losing twice at home in overtime to Missouri Southern.
“It’s just the conference,” Lions coach Kiley Cirillo said. “You can’t lay down for anybody.
“I think the gap (between top and bottom) is closing, and I think it’s going to close even more next year. It’ll be interesting to see.”
ENMU (2-7-1, 1-5-0), which hosts Northeastern State in a 1 p.m. conference matchup today, fended off several challenges by the Lions but could never really get much going in its own right.
“We really struggled in the first half,” Hounds coach Carlos Elizondo said. “The second half was better, but you have to be able to produce in overtime. We had some shots, but we missed them.”
Cirillo said the Lions have made progress this year, noting that most of their losses have been close.
“We’ve had a rough go,” he said. “We’ve lost two games by more than one goal, and the last four or five games we were up a goal.
“This (win) gives us a little bit of confidence. To win this one is big for us.”
The Hounds were playing into the wind in the first half, and it appeared the momentum might change when the teams changed ends.
It never really did.
“We were losing the individual battles and most of the 50-50 balls,” Elizondo said. “They had the ball on our side most of the first 35 minutes or so.
“The main thing was they were getting through our midfield. We had to make sure (at halftime) that we were supporting each other correctly.”
Southwest Soccer Conference
Missouri Southern 1, ENMU 0
Missouri Southern 0 0 1 — 1
ENMU 0 0 0 — 0
MS — Neil Stoessell (J.P. West), 95:49
Shots on goal — Missouri Southern 7, Eastern New Mexico 4. Corner kicks — Missouri Southern 6, Eastern New Mexico 3. Saves — Missouri Southern 4 (Travis Haight 4), Eastern New Mexico 6 (Leif Craddock 6). Fouls — Missouri Southern 13, Eastern New Mexico 13. Yellow cards — Missouri Southern 1 (Seth Creed), Eastern New Mexico 3 (Rob Humphrey, Donnell Jackson, Marcus Leyva). Records — Missouri Southern 3-7-0 (1-5-0), Eastern New Mexico (2-7-1, 1-5-0). A — 80.