Zias improve tournament chances with 2-1 victory

ENMU junior Nicole Bregler, right, battles Texas Woman’s freshman Chastity Hayter for control of the ball in the first half of Friday’s Lone Star Conference women’s soccer match at the ENMU pitch. (CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

PORTALES — Megan Dozier provided the offense, and her teammates took care of the defense.

Dozier scored her ninth and 10th goals of the season, tying her school record set two years ago, and the Eastern New Mexico University women’s soccer team fought off late runs by Texas Woman’s to nail down a 2-1 Lone Star Conference victory on Friday at the ENMU pitch.

With the win, the Zias (9-7-1, 4-3-1 LSC) closed on the four-year-old program’s first berth in the six-team LSC tournament, which begins Thursday in Edmond, Okla. ENMU, which started the day tied for sixth with Southwestern Oklahoma but only a game behind four other teams, ends its conference and regular-season schedule with a noon home match on Sunday against Texas A&M-Commerce (9-7-3, 4-3-1). Commerce lost Friday at West Texas A&M 1-0.

“Hopefully, it’s enough (to get in),” ENMU coach Travis McCorkle said after the win. “Texas A&M-Commerce is probably going to come in here needing something on Sunday, but if everything falls in the right place, we may get better than a sixth seed.”

Dozier put the Zias in front less than three minutes into the match, slipping inside and beating Pioneers keeper Aly Vincent.

Dozier’s second goal put 15 minutes into the second half put the Zias ahead for good. Taking a pass from senior forward Kara Henderson, Dozier faked her way around Pioneers defender Natalie Harrison and scored easily when backup keeper Krista Elbert came up and got tangled with Harrison, who was injured on the play.

“She’s a very easy forward to work with,” ENMU junior defender Katharine Coulombe said of Dozier. “Her and Kara’s strengths really complement each other.”

After that, it was left to the defense.

“The girls really stepped up to the challenge,” Coulombe said. “I was impressed to see a lot of our freshmen play as well as they did.

“They put a lot of pressure on us, but we have everything to prove from last year. They kept us from going to (the) conference (tournament).”

With about 10 minutes left, Texas Woman’s coach Fleur Benatar was given a red card and ejected after a profanity-laced tirade on the officials.

With the Pioneers (4-12-2, 1-5-1) trying to push for a scoring opportunity, Coulombe said having the lead took the pressure off the Zias.

“A lot of the balls they sent were over the top,” she said. “They were just trying to see which girl could run under it (and make a play).”

It was the fourth consecutive year the teams have played to a 2-1 score, with the Zias winning three of them.