Conway, Ark. – The most successful season in the history of the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi women's soccer team came to a close on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Southland Conference Tournament. The Islanders battled torrential downpours and lightning delays in a 3-1 loss to Southeastern Louisiana.
"We can step off the field at the end of the day with our heads held high," head coach Shanna Caldwell said after the match. "The team made the decision to come back after we talked at halftime and fight. We started to attack more, and I think controlled more of the run of play. Unfortunately, we put ourselves in a tough spot from the first half.
The Islanders fell behind early in the 12th minute when Kayla Vera scored on the break. Lady Lions leading scorer Gisenia Utreras finished on a loose ball in the box in the 19th minute, before Maggie Ramsey found the back of the net in the 33rd minute to make the score 3-0 at halftime.
A&M-Corpus Christi put Southeastern Louisiana under pressure from the first kick of the second half. Hailey Sutton sent a volley just over the cross bar three minutes into the second half.
Sutton then pulled the Islanders within two goals in the 52nd minute. The Red Oak, Texas, native was played in on goal by a great pass from Emma Biba, which was set up by Jessica Berdan. Sutton, in on a breakaway, beat goalkeeper of the year Hope Sabadash between the legs for her fourth goal of the season.
The remainder of the second half was dominated by the blue and green. Sabadash was called on to make two essential saves on shots from Brooke Erdmann and Biba. The Islanders outshot the Lady Lions 8-1 in the final 30 minutes, but could not produce a goal.
The Islanders had to endure two lightning delays in the first half. At the 25 minute mark, the officials called the players off the field for a 1:04 delay. The teams returned to the pitch to resume play, but only managed five minutes of action before another strike halted proceeding for another 48 minutes.
"The weather delay added another element to the game, but we have faced a couple of weather delays before and we were prepared with food and drinks to stay hydrated and focused," Caldwell added. "The weather was a non-factor for us."
On Oct. 4, the Islanders were sitting last in the Southland Conference heading into their match against SLU with an 0-8-2 record. After Hailey Sutton scored a game-tying goal in the second half, followed by a Tatum Printy winner, A&M-Corpus Christi went on a program-defining run. Winning five of the next six, Caldwell's squad won five of the next six matches to vault to fifth place in the conference standings and qualify for their first postseason tournament in program history.
SOME SENIOR CLASS
The three senior of the 2015 Islanders Soccer senior class had been with the program from the beginning. Local product Amanda Ramirez joined the program in the spring of 2013. Ramirez appeared in eight matches, starting against McNeese State this season.
Sutton ends her career at the Islander as the leading scorer for the 2015 season and tied the second highest total in program history with six goals. Berdan, a leader on and off the pitch, transitioned from defense to midfield during this season. Her three goals finished second for the team this year, while adding three assists to finish with nine points for the season.
"I want to personally thank our three seniors," Caldwell said. "They believed in this program before the field was even built and have worked hard to leave an imprint for the future. They will be missed."
The Islanders will have nine players from the starting lineup from Thursday's match returning to suit up in the blue and green for 2016. All of the 18 returning players for next season's squad have experience as a starter this year. All-time leading scorer Yvette Franco will be back from injury to lead the offense.
"We now have tournament experience, and that should not be overlooked heading into the next few seasons," Caldwell added. "Nothing is ever guaranteed, and it takes us working even harder as a program to continue this momentum."
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