Ashley Humphrey of the University of San Francisco women's soccer team handles a ball in fall of 2017. Humphrey scored twice against Pacific on Oct. 14, 2018. (Courtesy: USF Athletics)

College notebook: USF women’s soccer on pace for one of best seasons in two decades

USF Dons on pace for one of best seasons in recent history: Since winning 11 games in 1997 — their sixth straight year with 10 wins or more — the USF women’s soccer team has won 10 or more games in a season just twice.

With a blitz of four second-half goals against Pacific on Sunday, the Dons moved to 9-5-1, with five games remaining and an outside shot at a conference title.

“We want to get to the NCAA Tournament, obviously, this year, and make a run at the WCC, but what’s great is that we have all these kids back with all this experience [next year],” head coach Jim Millinder said after Sunday’s win.

With a very strong group of recruits coming in next fall — including arguably the best midfielder in the state — one could argue that San Francisco is a year ahead of schedule. Next season, along with that class, Millinder will return almost every starter, including star Samantha Jehnings — who leads the team with nine goals — returning for her sixth year, courtesy of two ACL tears.

Jehnings fired off two shots — including one on goal — against the Tigers on Sunday, and was pulled for rest with about 14 minutes to go, but the Dons didn’t much need her against 2-11 Pacific.

San Francisco fired off 27 shots, including 11 on goal, while the Tigers managed just eight shots, and four of those on-frame. Despite that disparity, the Tigers held the lead for more than 30 minutes on Sunday.

After Nichole Kelsey got a yellow card on a slide tackle early in the first half, Pacific put away a penalty kick to take a 1-0 lead despite being outshot 9-3 by the Dons, who put five shots on goal. After putting six of their first 13 shots on goal headed into the half, San Francisco nearly broke through with a pair of rapid-fire shots from Kalena Teufel and Mia Villegas, but Teufel’s try went wide left and Villegas’s went high nine minutes into the second half.

In the 56th minute, Izzie Lueken found Miciah Madison, who lofted a shot up in the box for a header by Autumn Smithers to things up. In the 66th minute, Madison got a cross from Smithers off a Karley Weeks free kick, and put it in the back door to take the lead for good.

In the 69th minute, a shot by Ashley Humphrey was saved by Regan Heslop coming out of the goal, but Humphrey got her own rebound to make it 3-1. Humphrey added a header to make it 4-1 with four minutes to play.

At 2-1-1 in West Coast Conference play, San Francisco is one win behind a clutch of five teams effectively tied for the conference lead. Pepperdine is 3-1-1, while BYU, Gonzaga, Portland and Santa Clara are all 3-1.

The Dons host Gonzaga (8-3-2 overall) this Friday at 7 p.m., and then Portland (10-5 overall) on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Dons then visit the Cougars (8-4-1 overall) in Provo, Utah on Oct. 25, travel to San Diego (5-7-1, 1-3 in WCC) on Oct. 28 and then return home for a finale against St. Mary’s (6-7-2, 1-3-1) on Sat., Nov. 3 at 4:30 p.m.

ART U Women’s Soccer: Academy of Art women’s soccer made history in an Oct. 11 match at Notre Dame de Namur by tying the single-season program wins record on junior forward Anissa Wilson’s fifth goal of the year.

ART U Women’s Tennis: Three Urban Knights had the privilege of taking part in the illustrious ITA Cup in Rome, Georgia. Collegiate players spanning across four divisions gathered in hopes of qualifying for the Oracle ITA National Fall Championship. Although unsuccessful in the main bracket, seniors Alma Thell-Lenntorp and Klara Thell-Lenntorp worked their way through the consolation bracket for a championship while senior Monika Stanikova earned a third place finish in the singles consolation bracket.

SF State Soccer: Both men’s and women’s soccer teams scored wins over Cal State East Bay this weekend, with the men edging the Pioneers on a first-half goal for a 1-0 win. That shot — off the foot of senior captain Aydan Bower — came in the 31st minute, and was the Gators’ first shot of the day after four shots and a corner kick by Cal State East Bay. The goal was Bower’s third game-winner of the year.

The women’s soccer team beat the Pioneers 3-1 on Sunday in Hayward with a similar start: Cal State East Bay fired off four shots before Monique Ponce got one off for the Gators — a wide one in the 20th minute. In the 41st minute, SF State redshirt freshman Summer Langsam’s first career goal broke the seal. Chace Miguel connected with Savannah Schultz in the 54th minute to tie the game at 1-1 for the Pioneers, but junior defender Kelsie Bozart scored her first goal of the season in the 65th minute to put the Gators ahead for good.

Sophomore keeper Nicki Rucki recorded three saves on the game for her seventh win of the season, and Emily Kaleal scored her first career goal in the 74th minute.

With the win, the women’s team now has just two CCAA games left, against Stanislaus State on Friday at 3 p.m. and against first-place Chico State on Sunday at 2 p.m. If they can win both, the Gators (7-5-2/5-3-2 CCAA) would guarantee themselves a spot in the CCAA championships.

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