By Jordan Salas
The Texas State Bobcats (9-2-2, 3-1-1 Sun Belt) got handed their first conference loss against the James Madison University Dukes (8-2-3, 3-1-2 Sun Belt) Thursday night, in a battle between the Sun Belt Conference’s West and East division leaders.
Texas State fans filled the stands for the first-ever matchup between the two programs who sit atop the Sun Belt Conference standings. Both teams came into the game with some great momentum, considering that their last losses came nearly a month ago.
Throughout most of the first half, the Dukes dominated possession by keeping the ball away from the Bobcats, allowing minimal opportunities for Texas State to attack on offense. The first 35 minutes of the game moved at a slower pace due to James Madison’s offensive approach.
The Dukes were patient and did a particularly excellent job of making smart plays that did not risk turning the ball over. On the other side, Texas State played a conservative defense, which did not press high. This allowed JMU to keep pressure on the Bobcats’ defense, and eventually score first. In the 37th minute, the Dukes punched in a goal scored by Lidia Nduka, assisted by Lexi Vanderlinden.
“Their (JMU) number one strength is their ability to keep the ball,” said Texas State Head Coach Steve Holeman. “They’re persistent in wanting to connect and they can literally tear teams down.”
The final minutes of the first half slowly ticked away with not much action until the 41st minute when Texas State’s Chloe Jones gave her team their best look of the game thus far, sending a shot on goal that was saved by Alexandra Blom of James Madison. At halftime, the Bobcats trailed the Dukes 1-0. Texas State had three shot attempts and three saves in the first 45 minutes of the match compared to James Madison’s seven shots and one save.
In the second half, it was noticeable that Texas State changed their defensive strategy. The Bobcats were applying more pressure to the Dukes offense compared to the first half to try and create more opportunities for themselves.
“It was good that we stuck with the gameplan,” said Holeman. “We shifted a little bit from where we pressed them when we started to press them up high. We created a lot of good chances”
In the 58th minute, the Dukes added to their lead after Suwaibatu Mohammed got her team another goal off an assist from Sophia Verrecchia. Texas State was finding more success when it came to offensive opportunities in the second half.
They were able to make better passes and take more shot attempts but could not convert those into points. In the span of about five minutes, between the 66th and 71st minutes, the Bobcats had four shot attempts with two of them being saved by the Dukes goalkeeper. Texas State could not reach the back of the net. In the 76th minute, James Madison scored once again due to Amanda Attanasi’s first goal of the night, which gave the Dukes a comfortable 3-0 lead.
Three minutes later there was a glimpse of hope for the Bobcats. In the 79th minute, Texas State’s Madi Goss capitalized on a penalty kick which gave her team a chance of getting back in the match. The Bobcats were not going down without a fight.
Texas State dominated the final 10 minutes of possession, trying their best to come back from behind. The Bobcats put up two more shots on goal that were saved by the Dukes but that would be it. The 90th minute expired and the Bobcats had their first conference loss of the season added to their record.
Texas State now sits in third place of the West Division of the Sun Belt Conference with five more games to play before the conference tournament. You can catch the next Texas State Soccer home game on Thursday, October 20 at 7:00 p.m. at the Bobcat Soccer Complex where they will play against South Alabama.
Featured Image by Chris Swann.