The UHV women’s soccer team needed to find a late winner in Saturday’s Red River Athletic Conference quarterfinal match with Huston-Tillotson at The Cage.
Instead, the two teams stayed deadlocked at 1-1 after 100 minutes, forcing a penalty shootout. The Jaguars missed their first two kicks from the spot while the Rams converted on four of their five attempts to advance to Thursday’s RRAC semifinals at Texas A&M University-Texarkana.
UHV (11-6-1) returned to the conference tournament after winning one game last season. Head coach Adrian Rigby credited the rapid turnaround to the senior leadership from players like fifth-year senior defender Nisa Ollivierre.
“It says a lot about the players,” Rigby said. “I just felt like they trusted the coaches. I thought we played really well last year despite the results. They just did the things that were asked all year and they really responded, and had a good year.”
Ollivierre, of Baytown, took advantage of the free year of eligibility given to student-athletes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She wanted to help build the program with one final season.
“I’m amazed at what this team has been through. I’m amazed at what we accomplished,” Ollivierre said. “We went from winning one game last season to winning many this season, and being the fourth seed in the conference. I’m just very proud of what we’ve built. I can’t wait to see them make something more of it.”
Itzel Mejia delivered the lead for the Jaguars in the closing seconds of the first half. The freshman out of Katy Taylor got her strike to dip under the crossbar with 20 seconds left in the half.
It was a goal that had been a long time coming for UHV, which had two set piece opportunities turned away earlier in the first half.
“That’s just the game of soccer,” Rigby said. “Sometimes you don’t get rewarded for the hard work. It was nice to see Itzel score. She’s got a good shot on her and has done that a couple of times this year.”
UHV had to weather a surge from the Rams midway through the second half. Ollivierre was able to make a goal-line clearance in the 64th minute to keep the Jaguars on top.
That advantage would last momentarily, as HTU’s Messly Navarro equalized the game in the 66th with a chip over UHV goalkeeper Emilee Ulke.
“The second half, we came out a bit frantic,” Ollivierre said. “I would say that gave them a lot of opportunities. When we play frantically, we tend to just lose focus on what’s going on in the game. But I think once we saw that, we really gained it back.”
UHV had two opportunities to end the match in the final minutes of the first overtime. Tori Sifuentes’ breakaway was cleared in the 99th minute and Estelle Flanagan had her shot saved in the final seconds.
“We wanted to end it badly,” Mejia said, “to get our chance to go to Texarkana. But we just couldn’t put them in the back of the net.”