WALNUT RIDGE, AR – With 17 new faces on this year's roster, Scott Fogarty, head coach for the Central Christian College women's soccer team, knew there were a lot of unknowns heading into the 2018 season for his young Tiger squad.
The new look Tigers opened the season on Thursday, on the road in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, taking on the Williams Baptist University Eagles. The Eagles had a slightly better record than the Tigers in 2017, going 5-11-1 overall, and 4-7-1 in their conference. They had one game under their belt heading into today's matchup with the Tigers, opening up last week with a 4-4 tie against Jarvis Christian. Fogarty inserted seven freshman in the starting lineup, and didn't quite know what to expect from so many ladies getting their first taste of collegiate soccer.
Things got off to a shaky start for the Tigers, likely due to a few nerves, as they allowed the Eagles to jump out to a quick 1-0 lead, four minutes into first half. After the early goal, the Tigers settled down and got their feet under them. The nerves settled, and in the 22nd minute, freshman Alexa Riddle scored her first collegiate goal, when she was the recipient of a rebound from a shot that went off the post from fellow freshman Karla Menjivar. Six seconds later, Riddle recorded her first collegiate assist when she threaded a pass to senior Isabel Sierra, who beat a couple of defenders and found the back of the net. Sierra's goal gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead heading into halftime, and would eventually turn out to be the game winner.
In the second half, the Tigers struck again in the 59th minute. It was Riddle again finding the nylon, this time unassisted. Twenty minutes later the Tigers got an insurance goal on an impressive "one timer" volley off the left foot of freshman Mackenzie Kispert.
Keely King and Charis Ball split time in between the pipes for the Tigers. King got the start and played the entire first half, getting the win, while Ball played the second 45 minutes and kept the Eagles off the scoreboard. Ball ended up recording the only save of the day for the Tigers. The Tiger offense was dominant for the entire 90 minutes. They outshot the Eagles 27-7, and had 14 shots on goal, while the Eagles only placed 3 on frame.
"We got off to a rocky start, conceding an early goal," said Coach Fogarty. "You could definitely tell there were 'first game jitters' but we eventually calmed down and started to boss the proceedings in terms of shots and possession, but they still made us work hard for it."
Fogarty had an excellent year recruiting, which played a big part in Thursday's win. He commented "it was very very hot and muggy, so our depth played to our advantage as we were able to wear them down." He finished by adding, "I'm pleased with our starting point, but still lots of work to be done on our cohesion as a team. Especially thrilled for two of our freshman getting their first career goals. Alexa was a menace all game and Mackenzie had the goal of the game with her left-footed volley".
The Tigers, now 1-0 on the year, will use Friday as a travel day, heading over to Conway, Arkansas for a matchup on Saturday with the Central Baptist College Mustangs. Game time for Saturday is slated for 1:00 pm.