Over the span of 102 yards on the Dirks Field pitch Friday, the Fort Lewis College women’s soccer team nearly was perfect.
It was the final 18 yards that proved to be tricky. At least until Megan Striedel decided to get gritty.
Striedel fought off a defender and finally broke through in the 85th minute, and the Skyhawks downed CSU-Pueblo 1-0.
It wasn’t the prettiest goal, at least compared to the aesthetically pleasing passing and possession showcase FLC put on all over the rest of the pitch. But when Laura Tita’s feed into the middle of the penalty area found itself near her, Striedel wouldn’t be denied.
She outmuscled a ThunderWolves defender before slotting a low shot inside the left post past Savannah Thompson for the goal FLC had been in position for almost since the opening whistle.
“All game, the ball had been bouncing a lot, so I knew the ball was going to bounce right on over her. I just had to hold my body strong as she was trying to cut in front and get a toe-poke in there,” Striedel said.
FLC spent the rest of the game playing a fairly organized game of keep-away. The Skyhawks (9-2-2, 5-2-2 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) outshot the ThunderWolves 21-11 and 10-5 in shots on goal thanks largely to their possession advantage.
FLC head coach Damian Clarke said he challenged his forwards to get on the board at halftime after that advantage was wasted in the first half.
“I can’t complain about the way we moved the ball. It’s better than it’s been in a long time,” Clarke said. “Just missing an element of penetration on the very end, and that’s important.
“I made a threat to the forwards. I said, ‘If it doesn’t look like we’re going to score a goal, then Madyson (Wellcome) is going to play forward, and it made them all giggle a little bit,” he said of his star defender, laughing.
Exacerbating the problem was the fact that FLC was missing leading scorer Sam Weiss, who is out of town attending her sister’s wedding but is expected back for Sunday’s game against Colorado Mesa. Striedel started at forward in her place.
The FLC defense was up to the task on the few chances the ThunderWolves (1-10-1, 1-8-0 RMAC) produced, mostly on the counterattack.
Amanda Raso made five saves in net for the Skyhawks, none of them particularly challenging. It was the eighth shutout of the season for the Skyhawks, who had just four last season. It’s the most since they posted 10 in 2010, a year in which they advanced to the elite eight.
“This is eight shutouts? They’re giving us a chance to obviously win games but giving us a chance to get better in the places that we need to get better with the way they’re performing,” Clarke said.
FLC will lock horns with the Colorado Mesa Mavericks on Sunday in a battle of teams that still have RMAC title aspirations. And the Skyhawks will be looking to shore up the only deficiency in their game from Friday.
“I think we just need to be sharper in front of goal,” Striedel said.