SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University women’s soccer freshman Heather Johnson scored her first collegiate goal when it mattered most, knocking in the game-winner six minutes into the second half to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 victory over visiting Boise State University Sunday at the Gonzaga Soccer Field.
The one-goal victory pushed the Zags overall record on the new season to 3-1, while the Broncos fell to 2-2 on the year.
“Every game is a battle and there are no easy games on our schedule and we saw that again here today,” explained fourth-year head coach Amy Edwards after the victory. “Being 3-1 overall is where we wanted to be and I am really excited about what this team can continue to do.”
Gonzaga got on the scoreboard first, breaking the scoreless tie with a little over five minutes to play before halftime. Senior Morgan Manchester, known for her long throw-ins, had a perfect throw to freshman Sila Tuiofea’s feet on top of the box. Tuiofea tried to get open for the shot, but couldn’t, so passed it back to classmate Jessica Bennett. Bennett took a dribble to her right and cracked a 20-yard shot that found its way to the back post. The goal at 39:54 was Bennett’s first of her collegiate career.
The Bulldogs looked like they were going to get to halftime with the 1-0 advantage but 37 seconds before the horn sounded the Broncos scored the equalizer. Boise State’s Mandy Nader served back a ball into the box – that had been cleared by Gonzaga. Nader’s serve bounced just yards in front of GU goalkeeper Susan Brown but Brown misjudged the ball and couldn’t grab it before the Broncos’ Erica Parks headed it into the back of the net.
“Giving that goal away late in the first half was discouraging,” stated Edwards. “Late in the half they [Boise State] are always going to throw everything at you but despite that goal we bent but didn’t break.”
The Bulldogs did indeed bend but didn’t break as Johnson scored what became the game-winner 5:11 into the final period.
“We talked about how the energy level in our transition from attacking to defending and our defending to attacking had to improve for us to keep the rhythm and tempo the way we wanted too,” said Edwards. “We put them under pressure early in the second half and it paid off.”
Johnson received a pass from sophomore Tori Lee with her back to the goal. She quickly pivoted and cracked a shot that deflected off a Bronco defender into the net for the goal at 50:11.
“Before the game we [coaching staff] were asking if this was going to be Heather’s breakout day and I think it was,” said Edwards of the forward/midfielder from Kennewick, Wash. “I think she is feeling more comfortable in what we are asking her to do and her teammates are asking of her.”
Johnson finished with a game-high five shots, including three that were on goal.
Despite letting in the goal, Brown came up big for Gonzaga once again, finishing with a season-tying high six saves.
Gonzaga will play its next two contests in Tennessee. The Bulldogs face Austin Peay University Friday, Aug. 31 at 5 p.m. PT and then battles Vanderbilt University Sunday, Sept. 2 at 3 p.m. PT
“I am ready to go to Nashville to play teams we haven’t played before,” explained Edwards of the first-time match-ups with both Austin Peay and Vanderbilt. “I think it is going to be exciting and fun.”