THIBODAUX, La. – With everything on the line and continuing the season at stake, the Nicholls State University women’s soccer team trailed, then tied, took the lead, then had to deal with a tie again late until sophomore forward Spencer Valdespino earned the game winner in the 82nd minute to defeat Sam Houston State 3-2 and sending Nicholls to the 2013 Southland Conference Women’s Soccer Tournament for the first time since 2004.
Nicholls (12-5-2, 6-5-1 SLC) earned the win and in the process captured just its third conference tournament berth in team history while overtaking the Bearkats (8-10-1, 6-6) in the standings to go into the tournament beginning this Thursday in Lake Charles as the No. 4 seed. In a season filled with broken records, the Colonels can now lay waste to another as the finish by the 2013 team is the highest for any Nicholls women’s soccer team in program history. Nicholls six conference wins are also the most ever, as the greatest season in team history rolls on with their 12th win of the year.
In what amounted to one of the most thrilling matches of the season, the Colonels fought back from being down very early in the match, to holding on for dear life to a 2-1 lead that looked like it was going to stick until a late Bearkat goal knotted the match at 2-2 in the 79th minute.
However, in a season that will push her to the forefront of one of the most lethal scorers in the league, Valdespino connected on a perfect pass from Lauren O’Brien and fired a shot past SHSU goalkeeper Kylie Hambleton’s left side to the near post to give the Colonels the lead with 82:04 left on the clock for her second goal of the match and sixth game-winner of the season to give her 16 scores on the season.
With those two scores, Valdespino becomes the first Colonel ever to finish the season leading the Southland Conference in goals (16) and in points with 37 total. Her 16 goals are the most since SFA’s Chelsea Raymond scored 17 in 2011, as her 37 total points are the most since Raymond had 41 in that same year, with Valdespino being just the sixth player since 2007 with that many and points in a single season. The six game-winning goals are also one shy of tying the Southland Conference record for most in a single-season.
Another record was broken on Sunday afternoon, as Nicholls goalie Amanda Boylson earned her seventh win of the season to improve to 7-3-2 in goal, breaking former keeper Molly Mersereau’s record for wins by a goalie in a single year as she had six in 2011. Boylson stopped four shots on the day and played all 90 minutes, while Hambleton for SHSU had seven saves and allowed all three goals.
The Colonels thoroughly dominated the Bearkats, producing 25 shots in the match to SHSU’s nine, earning 11 shots on target to Sam Houston’s six. Valdespino led all players with 12 shots on the day, coming two shy of tying the mark for most in contest, with five shots on goal. Hannah Savoie came close to connecting on a goal of her own if not for a team save by the Bearkats as she finished the day with four.
It looked as if the credit for the game winner would belong to Aussie midfielder Jess Coates, who’s scored in the 53rd minute gave the Colonels a 2-1 advantage a few minutes into the second half. Coates also finished with four shots, as it was her fifth score of the season.
Nicholls also proved to be aggressive defensively, as the team was called for 17 fouls while Sam Houston State ended the match with just six. The back line trio of senior Meghan Lanteigne and juniors Kirsten Cunningham and Amber Moore played all 90 minutes in helping contain the Bearkat attack.
With the wind howling a bit, in the sixth minute, SHSU leading goal scorer Mariah Titus lifted a shot into the air that bounced over Boylson’s head to put the Bearkats up 1-0.
In the 34th minute, Sam Houston State committed a foul just outside of the box giving Nicholls a free kick. Valdespino drilled a laser shot to the far right post that Hambleton had no shot of getting to knot the match at 1-1.
Nicholls outshot the Bearkats 13-4 in the first half alone, earning three of their five corner kicks in the first 45 minutes.
Coates’ goal came on a perfectly placed cross from Kristy Tatom to put Nicholls up by one in the second half, as it was Tatom’s second assist of the season.
With a little more than ten minutes remaining in the contest, Bearkat player Jordan Jarzombek checked into the game and immediately made an impact, scoring her first goal of the season by chipping a shot just over the head of Boylson to tie the match at 2-2.
After settling for a tie after having the same thing happen on Friday against Southeastern Louisiana, the Colonels went right back on the attack and spark plug Lauren O’Brien found Valdespino on the opposite side of the box to fire in the game-winner and put Nicholls up 3-2 for her fourth assist of the season.
Again the Colonels made its mark attacking, firing off 12 shots in the second half to Sam Houston’s five. Of Hambleton’s seven saves, five came in the second half while Boylson had three of her four in the final 45 minutes.
Nicholls will now wait and find out their opponent as the tournament bracket is released later on Sunday night. For more information stay tuned to GeauxColonels.com and our social media pages.