By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — With the wind blowing briskly in their faces, the Eastern New Mexico University women’s soccer team figured if it could just make it to halftime things could turn in their favor.
The Zias played Northeastern State to a scoreless draw in the opening stanza, then used the wind to their advantage and pulled away for a 3-0 Lone Star Conference victory on Friday at the ENMU pitch.
Junior goalkeeper Stephanie Sanchez posted her third shutout of the season, eclipsing her own school mark set last year. Meantime, goals by Kara Henderson, Marcela Garcia and Samantha Lawrence allowed the Zias (7-6, 2-2 LSC) to cruise to the win down the stretch.
“Even if you get outshot, if you put away your (scoring) chances, you always have a good chance to win,” said ENMU coach Travis McCorkle, whose team had six shots on goal to eight for Tahlequah, Okla.-based Northeastern (4-7-3, 2-3). “They (Lady Reds) had some good opportunities in the first half, but I felt like we fought and fought and fought.”
Sanchez notched seven saves in the match, including a couple where she was in one-on-one situations. She deflected another shot off the crossbar to prevent a first-half goal.
“I was able to get a piece of it,” Sanchez said. “Thank God for that.”
Lady Reds coach Carlo Melo acknowledged her team missed its best chances early, playing with the wind at its back.
“We played much better in the first half,” she said. “We had a couple of one-on-ones with the keeper, and we had other chances.
“The second half started out well, but (little) details made the difference.”
Henderson put the Zias in front when she took a crossing pass from freshman defender April Funck directly in front of the net and punched the ball past Northeastern keeper Patricia Davis in the 55th minute.
Garcia, a defender, then scored off a deflected ball in front of the net about eight minutes later.
“Marcela did a good job,” McCorkle noted. “Most of our defenders would get that shot, and the ball goes off into the bushes.”
Freshman Samantha Lawrence added insurance when she pounded in her own rebound shot with just over 16 minutes left.
“Our defense did a great job,” Sanchez said. “With the wind in the second half, we took it to them. It was a good team effort.”
The victory was important because it vaulted ENMU past the Lady Reds in the LSC standings. The top six of 10 teams qualify for the league’s postseason tournament in early November.