Spartans End Season With Loss To Idaho In WAC Tourney

FRESNO, Calif. — The 2011 season came to a close Thursday for the San Jose State women’s soccer team as it fell 2-1 against Idaho in the first round of the Western Athletic Conference Soccer Tournament at Fresno State’s Soccer/Lacrosse Field.
The Spartans end the season with a 6-12-1 overall record. The team posted a 4-2-1 mark in WAC play to finish tied for third. It was the third straight season San Jose State had finished in the top three at year’s end, and the seventh straight season it qualified for the WAC Soccer Tournament. The Vandals move on to play the tournament’s top seed, Utah State, at noon on Friday.
“It’s just heart-wrenching,” said San Jose State head coach Jeff Leightman about the loss. “We feel gutted. I thought we were on top of the match pretty much the whole match.”
The fourth-seeded Spartans got on the board first with a goal in the 21st minute. Junior Kelsey Lord sent a cross into the box from the right corner, where several Spartans were waiting to strike. It was freshman Catherine Ruder who would find the loose ball and put it in for her third goal of the season and a 1-0 San Jose State lead.
The celebration for SJSU was short-lived, however. No. 5-seed Idaho (8-10-3, 3-3-1 WAC) notched an equalizer 20 seconds after play resumed to tie the game at 1-1. It would be the first of two goals in the game for the Vandals’ Amber Pimbley.
“That kind of changed the rhythm a little bit,” said Leightman about Idaho’s quick answer. “It was unsettling, and then they started to control things.”
The occurrence of successive goals within seconds of one another is not uncommon when San Jose State and Idaho face each other. It has happened in each of the last three matches between the two teams. Earlier this season in San Jose, Idaho’s Chelsea Small scored at the 64:04 mark, only to see Kayla Santacruz tie the game 38 seconds later.
In the teams’ 2010 regular season meeting, SJSU’s Stephanie Righetti score with 6:38 left in regulation. Small converted a penalty kick for the Vandals 23 seconds later.
Pimbley put her team up for good about five minutes before halftime with a shot from 25 yards away. Pimbley found space in a crowd of players and placed the ball directly on goal, beating San Jose State goalkeeper Meghan Maiwald to give the Vandals a 2-1 lead that would stand.
“Give Idaho credit, they sold out; blocked a lot of shots and found a way (to win),” said Leightman. “We couldn’t have asked our players to do much more other than finish. I was very proud of them. They did everything we asked of them."
The Spartans had multiple opportunities in the second half, including one with 20 seconds left. Cheryl Kute received the ball with space on the right side of the box and had only the Idaho ‘keeper Caroline Towles to beat, but feeling the pressure of the oncoming defense and ticking clock, Kute sent the ball high left, and the clock ran out on the Spartans’ season.
“(Kute) was pretty much free on the right hand side,” Leightman said. “She probably could’ve taken one more touch and gotten herself in a little bit more but she didn’t know how much time or space she had. That kind of summed up our day.”
San Jose State pressed hard in the second half, outshooting Idaho 10-3 to end the game with a 15-10 shots advantage. The team also earned more corner kicks (3-1) and put four shots on goal in the final 45 minutes, but was not able to tally the equalizer.
“It’s been a season of highs and lows,” said Leightman. “We’ve played a lot of good soccer. I was proud of our players because when lows were lows we didn’t really get down on ourselves and stayed together, stayed on the same page. I think for some reason the soccer gods didn’t see it our way.
“Regardless of the year results-wise, I was very proud of our players. Our seniors, they meant a lot to our team and turning our program around. Now we look towards 2012.”
Score by Periods                                                          1    2    -   F Idaho (8-10-3, 3-3-1 WAC)                  2    0    -    2 San Jose State (6-12-1, 4-2-1 WAC)   1    0    -    1
SJSU -- Catherine Ruder (Kelsey Lord), 20:27 Idaho -- Amber Pimbley (Megan Lopez), 20:47 Idaho -- Amber Pimbley, 40:50
Shots Idaho -- 10 SJSU -- 15
Corner Kicks Idaho -- 1 SJSU -- 3
Saves Caroline Towles (Idaho) -- 5 Meghan Maiwald (SJSU) -- 4