San Jose, Calif. - The Spartans first game of the season was nothing short of a nail-biter, as San Jose State battled Bay Area rivals the University of San Francisco to a 1-1 stalemate.
The Spartans' veteran presence was alive and well in this match. Just over 15 minutes in to the game, San Jose State senior Helen Phan put her team on the board with her first career goal. The defender was given the ball by midfielder Megan Molina after the Dons had an offside called against them. "I do not know how I got my head and foot on the ball but I did," said Phan. "It was a great play by Megan (Molina)."
Spartans head coach Jeff Leightman was impressed with Phan’s performance. “Helen made a big improvement over last Saturday. You always know what you are going to get with Helen. She is going to be a ball-winner, a hard-nosed player, and is going to win tackles,” Leightman said. “Helen took more of a leadership role in the back tonight and we needed that.”
San Jose State's freshmen were also a major piece to its team’s solid play. Redshirt freshman Emily Pryor got her first career start and appearance in goal and held her own, blocking six of seven shots on goal, despite an injury in the second half that kept her out of the net for over nine minutes. Meanwhile, newcomer Mikaella Meibock recorded nearly half of San Jose State’s total shots (five of 12).
"I think the freshmen have earned their playing time," said Leightman. "We are going to play our best players. We brought in a very good freshman class not to sit, but to play. I was pleased with their performance."
But with nearly 15 minutes left in the second half, the Spartans saw their lead slip away when Dons sophomore Jaciara Mello, fed the ball by fellow sophomore Abigail Phillips off of a foul kick, tapped the ball in to San Jose State's net. Leightman called the goal "difficult. Emily got chased out a little bit. Whether she should have come out to win it or stayed home a bit more is always tough," the head coach said.
The game's intensity heightened as the clock ticked down. Dons sophomore Mackenzie Krieser, who took eight of her team's 15 shots, was stopped nearly two minutes in to the game's second overtime by Pryor on a quality chance.
In a final act of desperation for the Spartans, Meibock had her chance to be the team's hero cut short when a stellar shot flew inches above USF's crossbar, leading the Calgary, Alta., native to throw her hands up in frustration.
"I thought most of our players played very well tonight," the Spartans head coach said. "It is a bit unlucky that we did not find the goal but it was a good game and went back and forth. The Dons had some chances and we had some chances. It could have gone either way. Obviously, we wanted the win."
Though the final score did not end with a tally in the Spartans' win column, Phan is optimistic about the team's future. Said Phan, "The team is connecting and we are starting to play together as a team. We can go far. We can do it this season."
Scoring by Periods
1 2 OT OT2 Total San Jose State (0-0-1) 1 0 0 0 1 University of San Francisco (0-0-1) 0 1 0 0 1
SJSU: Helen Phan (Megan Molina), 15:37
USF: Jaciara Mello (Abigail Phillips), 75:07
Emily Pryor (SJSU): 6
Zoe Makrigiannis (SJSU): 1
Madalyn Schiffel (USF): 6