LUBBOCK, Texas – The Texas Tech soccer team played in front of the home crowd for the first time this season and put on a show for the Lubbock faithful, racking up a 4-0 victory over Appalachian State on Sunday night.
The crowd of 1,596 left the John Walker Soccer Complex happy as the Red Raiders (4-1-0) scored their most goals in a match in nearly two years, when Tech defeated UTSA, 4-0, on Sept. 4, 2015. The victory also continued head coach Tom Stone's home opener win streak to 11 games, making him perfect during his tenure at the helm of the Red Raider program.
"It was rewarding for sure," head coach Tom Stone said. "I feel for App State, they've had a long week. I think we might have caught them in a little bit of fatigue, kind of like when we went out there last year. Once we settled in and got the crowd into it, it made for an awesome night at Walker to show them all our new faces.
"To get four and to empty the bench, a good friend of mine once told me there's about twice a year that every player is happy and this is one of them. It's great because their friends are here, their families are here. Opening night and everyone gets to step onto the field. That makes it a special home opener."
All four goals came from four different student-athletes. Freshman forward Ally Griffin (34), sophomore midfielder Gwennie Puente (40'), sophomore midfielder Savanna Jones (54') and freshman forward Kirsten Davis (77') all found the back of the net in Sunday's win.
It was also the fourth clean sheet of the year, making it the first time since 2013 the Red Raiders have posted shutout victories as their first four wins of the year.
The Red Raiders racked up 23 total shots, 13 in the first frame & 10 in the second, with 13 shots on goal. Tech's defense held the Mountaineers to just six shots, three in each period, with the lone save coming from junior defender Rebekah O'Brien, who helped protect the backline and keep the shutout intact.
After several scoring opportunities in the first 30 minutes of the match, Tech finally broke through in the 34th minute thanks to Griffin. Junior defender Brooke Denesik sent a pass up to the left wing to Griffin, who danced around her defender and fired a missile inside the left post for the early 1-0 lead. It was her first collegiate goal, making her the third Red Raider to notch a career-first marker.
"Brooke really solved the problem there because they were kind of daring us to get behind them, but were really good at stepping us offside and retreating when they saw we were going to beat them," Stone said. "Ally did a good job of making a thoughtful ball by Brooke into something special and she hit it with such force & velocity that when it got off the turf and shot toward the corner I thought the keeper would be beat and sure enough she was."
Less than six minutes later, Tech did it again, this time utilizing a flurry of passes to find the result. In the 40th minute, Puente charged into the attacking zone and chipped the ball to junior defender Hannah Fernandez on the close right wing. Fernandez popped a pass to the opposite end of the box to sophomore midfielder Jordie Harr, who shoveled the ball back to Puente, who appeared in front of the keeper and sunk the ball into the net for the 2-0 advantage.
"That's a goal that comes because so many players are willing to get forward," Stone said. "I think we had five or six all in the box or running toward the box and swarming the ball. When it was kind of overplayed to the back post, Jordie Harr did a great job of keeping it alive, slapping it back across the face of the goalie and Gwennie finished it. I think three girls touched the ball during that sequence and everyone was really assertive in their decisions, running at the goal and being dangerous going after the ball so if the ball popped to them they could finish it."
Griffin wasn't the only Red Raider to notch her first college goal on Sunday night. In the 54th minute, Jones crashed the box after App State's Taylor made a diving save on senior forward Natalie Schmutz' shot and buried the bounce back for the 3-0 lead.
The fourth and final tally of the evening came after several blocked shots in the middle of the App State box. Davis was taken down after her first attempt was blocked by a Mountaineer defender, then got up and found the kick back after Griffin's shot found the same fate. Davis' second opportunity wouldn't be denied as she rifled the ball into the left corner of the net for her second goal of the year to cap the four-goal night for Tech.
"Other than 20 minutes at Pepperdine, the backline has been phenomenal," head coach Tom Stone said. "That's four clean sheets now, including preseason that's five. It's a mature backline. Mary [Heiberger] got the start tonight and did really well. I thought Gabbie Puente came in and made a big difference for us. When you have six players contributing on your backline, you have a good shot to use that depth throughout the season. We were really happy with the shutout."
The Red Raiders return to action on Friday, Sept. 8, at the University of Arizona Tournament, where they'll take on Arizona State, followed by Arizona on Sept. 10, in Tucson.