The University of San Francisco women’s soccer team had a chance to make history this week.
After a penalty kick in the 56th minute against lowly Loyola Marymount dealt the Dons their first loss in nearly a month, they still had an opportunity on Saturday to serve notice to conference stalwart Gonzaga. For 86 minutes, they looked well on their way.
After going up by two goals just after halftime, though, San Francisco surrendered two late goals — including the equalizer — against the Bulldogs, failing to grind out the clock and settling for a 3-3 tie in Spokane, Wash. The loss and tie this week, taken together, were a major missed opportunity to make a statement.
“It’s tough to win here, they are a very good team,” said head coach Jim Millinder. “You walk away thinking we got a point on the road but we feel like we should have gotten the result.”
The Dons (8-4-2, 1-1-1 in WCC) had gotten off to the program’s best start in 25 years, and had a chance to win their ninth game in their first 13 for the first time since 1994 headed into a match with the 2-7-2 Lions on Wednesday. Against a team that had allowed 22 goals in 11 games, though, San Francisco couldn’t break through, despite a 10-8 shots advantage (putting five on net). Early on Saturday, it looked again like the Dons would continue to squander scoring opportunities.
San Francisco was unable to convert a corner kick in the first minute of play, while Gonzaga (9-3-1, 2-0-1) — currently second in the conference — quickly took a 1-0 lead on a Samantha Heilman chip shot over goalkeeper Olivia Camera, who was way outside the box after a goal kick.
In the 15th minute, though, San Francisco evened things up as Miciah Madison took a ball deep into Bulldogs territory down the right side, and sent a pass back to Samantha Jehnings. Jehnings booted it into the back left corner of the net for her eighth goal of the season, and giving Madison the first of her three assists on the evening.
The goal was the 32nd of Jehnings’ career, one shy of tying Kellie Bryant (1992-95) for second all-time. She’s also three away from tying her total from last season.
Less than four minutes later, Keely Roy scored her fourth goal of the year — once again on a Madison assist — and Ashley Humphrey headed in her fourth of the season in the 47th minute to give the Dons a commanding 3-1 lead. With her three assists, Madison now has 55 career points, seventh all-time on the USF rolls.
“Tonight, was such a battle,” Millinder said. “We played very well the first half, we surrendered an early goal but battled back. We were up 2-1 at the half and we talked about getting that third goal which we did early, but then kind of faded. I was hoping their second goal wouldn’t come till about 15 minutes later, but it came early and then they got their equalizer.”
In the 59th minute, Madeline Gotta cut the lead in half with a penalty kick — the third San Francisco allowed on the week — and as the Dons tried to bleed clock, Gonzaga kept the pressure on, getting the game-tying goal in the 86th minute on a corner kick, with India Jencks sending it in for Lauren Elwer to score her sixth of the season.
“We just need to be a little more disciplined and be a little smarter when we are trying to preserve a W,” Millinder said. “That’s a very good team and they are going to give people a tough time down the road. Overall, I’m very pleased with our girls, they played hard. We’ll take the point on the road, to take one up there isn’t bad.”
The goals by Roy and Humphrey were their fourth of the year. For Humphrey that ties a career-best; she scored four goals in 2018. San Francisco now has five players with at least four goals: Jehnings (8), Madison (7), Cooper (4), Humphrey (4) and Roy (4). That is the most players with at least four goals in the Millinder era.
Still, while the tilt with Gonzaga gave the Dons the chance to leap into the top three spots in the conference, they’re now in fifth, while the Bulldogs are second behind preseason favorite BYU. San Francisco returns to California this week for a match at bottom-dwelling Pacific on Saturday.