Texas A&M International entered Sunday afternoon’s game at FHSU Soccer Stadium with a 1-5 record and a clear underdog facing the 5-1 and 11th-ranked Tigers.
Brett Parker’s Fort Hays State team, however, left the stadium on the wrong end of a 3-0 result.
The Dustdevils wasted little time taking advantage of a sluggish FHSU squad.
Tayeb Ahmadi beat Tigers’ goalkeeper Michael Yantz in the fifth minute to give the visitors an early lead. Less than four minutes later, Ryan Hodgson made it 2-0, finishing a breakaway opportunity to the upper-right corner.
“We started slow, and they capitalized on our mistakes,” FHSU junior captain Damion Cooper said. “That’s just the game of soccer, how it flows and everything. You go out there and do what you can, but you have to be mentally prepared.”
At the end of the first half, Texas A&M International had 11 shots compared to three for the Tigers. None of the FHSU shots in the opening 45 minutes required a save from Dustdevils goalie Miguel Lucio.
The Tigers had more control of the second half but never got a goal to show for it despite numerous good looks at goal.
“The first 60 minutes, we were not men,” Cooper said. “We were just boys. As we gradually got into those last 30 minutes, we started playing like men again.”
Despite the Tigers’ improved showing in the second half — Lucio was forced to make five saves — the Dustdevils scored the only goal of the final 45. Michael Iskander solidified the Texas A&M International win in the 77th minute with a volley over Yantz’ outstretched arms.
FHSU needed extra time for its two previous wins, but Cooper elected not to blame Sunday’s loss on tired legs. Instead, the captain questioned the team’s mindset heading into the game.
“We knew that they were going to be a better team than a 1-5 team,” Cooper said. “So, it’s just mental preparation, going in there and knowing we’re the best team. We still have to play like the best team, and today, we didn’t.”
The Tigers’ next game will be their first of MIAA action when they host Southwest Baptist on Friday.