The Redlands women’s soccer team squared off Wednesday night against their fierce rivals from Occidental. The tension was clear, as this was a very physical match from the get-go. Occidental had the advantage in the first half, and looked to earn all three points to notch their first conference win of the season. But the Lady Bulldogs persevered, and what they lacked in physicality was made up for with their endurance. Redlands scored two goals in the final half hour, stealing the win and keeping their place near the top of the SCIAC standings.
A quick start from the Tigers made it seem as if Redlands was in for a long night. Occidental dominated possession from the start, and almost got lucky on a 30-yard lob shot that resulted in Bulldog goalkeeper Hannah Menk pushing the ball over the crossbar to make the save. The persistence paid off, and Occidental scored a header on their third successive corner kick in the fifth minute.
The pressure didn’t stop there, as the Tigers continued to attack the Bulldogs’ defensive line. A corner kick in the ninth minute led to a shot that was inches away from doubling the lead, and it took a tremendous save by Menk in a one-on-one situation to prevent another score.
Possibly foreshadowing what was to come in the second half, the Lady Bulldogs encountered a few chances in the final 15 minutes of the first half. Freshman Gabby Hart had an opportunity to tie up the scoreboard in the 40th minute, but her shot went over the top of the goal and the score remained at 1-0. When the halftime whistle blew, Redlands was fortunate that Occidental only had one goal under their belt, while the Tigers were content to have kept the clean sheet.
In the second half, it became evident that the physical advantage Occidental imposed on Redlands was fading away, and the Lady Bulldogs took full advantage. Junior Madison Mills looked to tie the game up, but her solid strike in the 50th minute was wide right. The tide had turned in the match, and it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Redlands equaled the score. The blow finally came in the 66th minute, when junior midfielder Rachel Tungol took advantage of poor defense and slotted the ball into the left corner of the net to level things up to one each.
The Lady Bulldogs were in the driver’s seat for the entire second half, but as the final fifteen minutes approached, it was unclear whether they would be able to take the lead. The question was finally put to rest in the 78th minute, when junior forward Adi Fellows scored a superb volley shot on a ball that was crossed in by Tungol. Redlands was able to park the bus in the last ten minutes to earn their fifth win of the year.
A hard earned victory kept Redlands tied for second place in the SCIAC standings. Much of the praise deserves to go to goalkeeper Hannah Menk, who was the player of the game after making seven saves in the match– five in the first half that were crucial to keep the Lady Bulldogs in the game. Their next showdown is on Saturday, when Redlands hosts the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens at Farquhar Field.
photo contributed by Redlands Sports Information