ENMU’s Jared Morris (19) punches a rebound shot past UT-Permian Basin goalkeeper Gage Peterson (diving at right) for the Greyhounds only goal on Tuesday in a 3-1 loss to the Falcons at the ENMU soccer pitch. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — The University of Texas-Permian Basin Falcons are making the move from NCAA Division III to Division II this season. So far, they’ve shown they can hold their own.
UT-Permian Basin scored twice in span of less than 90 seconds Tuesday to beat Eastern New Mexico University 3-1 in men’s soccer at the ENMU soccer pitch.
Only eight minutes after ENMU tied the score, the Falcons’ Josh Stewart found the upper right corner of the net, spinning a shot just out of the reach of ENMU goalkeeper Leif Craddock with just over 20 minutes left in the match.
Moments later, sophomore Sergio Soto took a pass from Carlos Guillen and drilled a shot off Craddock’s hands and into the upper right corner of the net for a two-goal cushion.
“We obviously got the result we wanted,” Falcons coach Dennis Peterson said. “I thought that, for the most part, we took advantage of the opportunities we had.”
Peterson said the transition to Division II is helped by having played a number of Southwest Soccer Conference and Heartland Conference teams in the past. ENMU beat the Falcons 3-0 a year ago.
“We were able to get a couple of junior college transfers and a couple of good freshmen,” he said. “Just losing a couple of starters (from last season), we just had to find a couple of pieces.”
Stewart put Permian Basin (2-1) ahead near the end of a competitive first half, taking a short pass from Aldo Mendez off a penalty kick and shooting into the top of the net over Craddock from about 30 yards out.
“Josh has really been a good player for us,” Peterson said. “Last year, he was probably only about 80 percent because he had a knee injury, but this year he’s really stepped up his game.”
The Hounds (1-1-1) had only three shots on goal in the contest, but they broke through about 15 minutes into the second half when sophomore forward Jared Morris scored his fourth goal in three matches — he has all but one of ENMU’s tallies to this point — when he punched in the rebound that was deflected by Permian Basin keeper Gage Peterson.
ENMU coach Carlos Elizondo said Morris has been rewarded for working hard early in the season.
“Jared is at the right place at the right time,” he said. “He’s one of the hardest-working players on the team. He has the right attitude.”
Elizondo said the Hounds are a quicker, more efficient team on offense than last season, but they’re having trouble finishing. Fourteen of the 26 players on their roster are freshmen.
“We have a much better team,” Elizondo said. “We have players who can control the ball. We’re not as big a team, but we have a lot more skill.”