Cougars soccer set record attendance in season opener

WSU outshot Arkansas State 39-8; draw 1-1 after extra time

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COLE QUINN

The Cougars women’s soccer team celebrates following Sydney Pulver’s penalty kick goal during a 1-1 draw with Arkansas State.

AARIK LONG, Evergreen sports editor

In front of a jam-packed student section on the hill of the Lower Soccer Field, the Cougar soccer team opened up their campaign undefeated, as they picked up a 1-1 extra-time draw against the Arkansas State Red Wolves in their season opener. 

The game officially had 3,147 fans in attendance, breaking an all-time record for the Lower Soccer Field. The previous record was 2,812 fans at the 2019 home opener against Montana. 

The first ten minutes were dominated by the Cougs. Much of the time was spent in the attacking third for WSU. The Cougars recorded just three shots but also earned two corners in that time. 

The match was played very cleanly. The first offside was not called until the 15th minute, and the first foul of the match was not called until the 20th minute.

Right after that offsides call, last season’s leading scorer, Elyse Bennett got a one-on-one shot against Arkansas State’s Megan McClure. McClure, the Sun Belt’s preseason defensive player of the year, came up with a great sliding save to keep things equal. 

Then, less than a minute later, on just their third shot of the match, the Red Wolves broke the scoring open with a beautiful strike from Abigail Miller to make the score 1-0. The shot came right off of a previous shot being blocked and was placed just inside the post so that WSU’s Marissa Zucchetto could not make a play on it.

The next 15 minutes saw much of the same, as the Cougars would dominate possession and put pressure on the Red Wolves, but Arkansas State continued to do a great job of soaking up that pressure and not allowing the Cougs to get in on goal. 

At the half, WSU trailed Arkansas State 1-0, but that was not from a lack of possession or shots. It seemed the whole first half was played on the Red Wolf side of the field and the Cougs outshot their opponents 13-3. 

The Cougars had plenty of opportunities to take control of the match in the first half, but missed shots galore were the Achilles heel of the team. On those 13 shots, the Cougars only forced McClure to make two saves. On the other side of things, Zucchetto did not have a single first-half save.

The second half started with more of the same as WSU would continue to put the pressure on and make the Red Wolf defenders make plays in pressure situations.

By the 70th minute, WSU had racked up a 23-5 lead in shots and an 11-1 lead in corners, but still trailed 1-0 on the scoreboard. 

Things started to turn around however though in the 73rd minute. In the second half, WSU was attacking toward the hill hosting the student section. 

Alyssa Gray was brought down inside the box and the penalty call made that crowd come alive with some of the loudest cheers of the night. Sydney Pulver would find the back of the net on the penalty kick, shooting to her left while the keeper dove to Pulver’s right. After 25 shots, the Cougars had found their equalizer.

It seemed that flipped a switch for the Cougars. WSU had been in control for most of the match, but after that goal, the ladies in Crimson and Gray began to generate higher quality chances. The highlight of these was an 82nd-minute header from Enzi Broussard off of a corner that had to be cleared away by a nearby defender. 

Mackenzie Frimpong-Ellertson had a handful of great chances, including one in the 86th minute that McClure did a great job to turn away. 

After 90 minutes, WSU had outshot Arkansas State 31-8 and had a 15-1 advantage in corner kicks. Despite this, the game would draw on to extra time as the two teams were all square at one apiece. 

Last season, the Cougars had four games go to extra time. Those four games resulted in a win and three draws for WSU. The Cougs had not lost an extra-time match since Oct. 7, 2018, when they lost in the first overtime to Utah, and they kept this undefeated streak going with this match.

In the first half of extra time, the Cougs outshot Arkansas State 2-0 and had a 2-1 advantage on corners. The Red Wolves had a late corner that could have won the match. McClure came up to help on the corner, but the Cougs were able to turn it away and force the second extra-time period.

The second period was very similar to the first. WSU kept the ball down on the attacking end for much of the ten minutes and consistently made McClure make some saves in goal. The second period would end the same way that most of the game had.

WSU put a ton of pressure on Arkansas State all match, but the talents of Megan McClure in goal for the Red Wolves kept the Cougs from picking up an opening match win.

The Cougars outshot their opponents 39-8 in the match and racked up a 20-2 advantage in corner kicks.

WSU will return to action at 1 p.m. Aug. 29 on the Lower Soccer Field, as they host the Eastern Washington Eagles.