The Fort Hays State University women’s soccer team continued its run of dominant performances with a crushing 7-1 victory over Bethany College on Friday, Aug. 24, at the Fort Hays Soccer Stadium.
The match is the second of three exhibition games Fort Hays will play before opening their regular season away to UC Colorado Springs on Friday, Aug. 31.
Despite playing against a strong, downfield wind for the first half, Fort Hays opened up a 4-1 lead. Sophomore Jordan Shaw began the route with a goal in the fifth minute of play. Senior Sade Humphrey carried the ball past the Bethany defense to the touchline and played it back to Shaw who, after her first effort, was parried away by Bethany keeper Jasmine Zaker, poked the ball into the back of the unguarded net.
Senior Cindy Benitez and junior Joanne Glynn worked the ball back and forth well through the middle and right parts of the field and caused trouble for the Bethany defense all night.
The partnership drew a goal in the 13th minute when Benitez, after receiving the ball at the top of the 18-yard box from freshman and fellow center midfielder Alexis Aiman, played a quick one-two with Shaw on the right side. Benitez sent a low cross into the box to the unmarked Glynn who narrowly beat the Bethany keeper to the ball and struck it home to make the advantage 2-0.
The only bright spot of the night for Bethany, and what would be Fort Hays’ only sign of weakness on the stat sheet, came in the 24th minute when Bethany junior Tessa Kuhlengel received the ball at the top of the Fort Hays box, turned and with the wind at her back, fired a shot past Fort Hays’ keeper freshman Rachael Schaad.
Kuhlengel, who scored on only her second shot of the match, couldn’t muster another effort all game, as was the case with the entire Bethany attack, who wouldn’t have another shot on goal for the rest of the day.
Fort Hays responded with a 38th minute goal from sophomore Margaret Meier. Freshman Jordan Hester released fellow freshman Ember Albertson into space and a one-on-one with the keeper.
After Albertson’s effort was blocked, Hester recovered and played the ball back in front of goal to an oncoming Meier who got a foot on the ball just before the Bethany keeper could get to it, sending Meier flying into the air and the ball into the net.
Fort Hays had one more goal to add before the halftime whistle. Senior Nicole Randall netted in the 44th minute of play from a well-worked Fort Hays possession.
Again, Albertson found space on the left wing and sent the ball into Meier, who laid the ball back to Randall at the top of the box. Randall smashed a shot toward the goal, which after taking a deflection, left the Bethany keeper with little to do but watch it sail into her net.
Fort Hays went into the halftime break with a 4-1 lead.
Though Fort Hays had the advantage of the wind at their backs for the second half, the Tigers were only able to capitalize three more times.
Midfielder senior Bethany Keefer received the ball 35 yards out from the Bethany goal and decided to try her luck. She lofted a hard shot over Bethany’s new keeper Jessica Shepherd and widened the advantage to 5-1.
Joanne Glynn got her second of the game, again assisted by Benitez and Aiman, in the 59th minute. Aiman swung in a corner to find an unmarked Benitez in the middle of the box. After Benitez shot across goal, Glynn redirected her effort into the net for an easy goal.
Fort Hays’ second half keeper Nicole Barnaba had little work to do with the absence of much attacking threat from Bethany.
Sophomore Jamie Babyak and freshman Chandler Zitzmann again led the strong, if not sometimes nervous, Fort Hays defense. They were supported by freshmen Dani Harris, Gabrielle Makatura, Mallory Diederich and sophomore Laura Regnier.
Fort Hays finished the scoring with a 67th minute goal, again from Randall and again assisted by Meier. Meier’s shot on goal was deflected away and landed perfectly for Randall to slam it home.
Despite such a convincing scoreline, Fort Hays head coach Craig Shaw was displeased with the team’s performance.
Indeed, the scoreboard didn’t tell the full story of the game. The Tigers, who donned blue surgical masks over their faces, seemed unsure of themselves for much of the evening; their play was often mistimed and the players had trouble making simple passes and keeping coverage.
“We played awful,” Shaw said. “Sometimes you play down to your opposition.” There were still some positives to be taken from the day, however.
“We got what we wanted, we got ourselves acclimatized. That’s why we were wearing the masks. We’ve been wearing them all week in practice because it helps you acclimatize down here so when you get up there, you’re not struggling to breathe.”
Benitez echoed her coach’s sentiment about the Tigers’ play.
“I know we could have played better. That’s not how we usually play; we played down to the other team’s level. In this game, we messed up on fundamentals, but that’s what we’ve got to work on in practice tomorrow,” Benitez said.
The Tigers will have to rebound quickly, playing a formidable Kansas Wesleyan side on Sunday. Coach Shaw commented on the direction this game points for the Tigers.
“I’m not too worried. Our practice sessions have been great and it was probably very difficult to play with the masks on, to hear each other and communicate.”
The team’s character, despite its less than perfect play, shined through on this occasion.
“We reacted well. Any other team playing as bad as we did would have started fighting amongst each other and got really upset, but these girls did a really good job of making sure they stayed positive and stayed calm despite how frustrating it was,” said Shaw.
Fort Hays will play its final exhibition match Sunday, Aug. 26, against Kansas Wesleyan before opening its official season Aug. 31, in Colorado Springs, CO.