CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson ENMU sophomore forward Leslie Weber gets a pass by Midwestern State freshman forward Ashli Smith in the first half of Sunday’s Lone Star Conference match at the ENMU pitch. Midwestern took a 2-1 victory in the Zias’ season finale.
PORTALES — If nothing else, the Eastern New Mexico University women’s soccer team has shown it can play with the top teams in the Lone Star Conference.
The Zias finished their season on Sunday with a 2-1 loss to LSC runnerup Midwestern State at the ENMU pitch — their fifth one-goal loss in conference play.
After giving up five goals in their first two games of the season, the Zias (9-9, 3-7 LSC) gave up more than two goals in a match just one more time — and that was in a 5-4, double-overtime win over Abilene Christian.
“I think there were many times where we played above our skill level,” said fifth-year coach Travis McCorkle, whose squad included only four seniors and two juniors this season.
Freshman midfielder Uli Stack tallied on a header off a free kick by senior midfielder Katharine Coulombe to stake ENMU to a 1-0 halftime lead. But the Mustangs (12-3-2, 8-2-0) outshot the Zias 13-0 in the second half, getting an unassisted goal from sophomore forward Katy Lukert to tie it and taking the lead when sophomore midfielder Kari Bristow found the net on a free kick from about 35 yards out in the 71st minute.
“We wanted to try and get the ball out wide and keep possession that way,” McCorkle said of his team’s strategy against the Mustangs. “Midwestern is a good team. Right now, this team is not at that level.”
The Zias ran off a school-record seven-match winning streak and were 8-3 after the win over Abilene Christian on Sept. 30. However, they lost six of their final seven, including an 0-4 record on the road and home setbacks to the league’s top two teams.
Losses against Angelo State at home and at East Central on the road, both by 2-1 scores, were costly, McCorkle said.
“They were killers for us,” he said. “I don’t think Angelo State was better than us.”
Senior goalkeeper Stephanie Sanchez had 11 saves against Midwestern, including several difficult chances. She leaves some big shoes to fill, McCorkle said.
“She’s not going to be ‘replaced,’” he said.
Coulombe, Sanchez and fellow seniors Marcela Garcia and Amy Wilcox were recognized prior to the match. All were four-year members of the team except Wilcox, who came to ENMU last year.