Tiger women's soccer team off to promising spring start
Fort Hays State women's soccer coach Blake Reynolds believes his current team is his most complete team in his four years with the program.
Thursday's match against Central Oklahoma served as proof, with the Tigers notching a 2-0 win at FHSU Soccer Stadium in their most impressive showing of the young spring season.
The Tigers had lost their previous six matchups with UCO dating back to 2016.
"My first three years here, we've really been on our heels when we've played that team. We're able to compete a lot more with them now," Reynolds said. "We can defend. We've only given up one goal in four games and in 360-plus minutes. So we're super athletic and very tough defensively, and now we've got some goal scorers this year."
FHSU moved to 2-1-1 on the spring slate. The Tigers have gone three straight games without allowing a goal after giving up one in the spring opener against Central Missouri.
The Tigers scored both of Thursday's goals in the first half, despite going against the wind.
"When you're used to playing out here you know that it's easier to score against the wind in Hays than it is with the wind," Reynolds said. "We took advantage of a couple opportunities in the first half. We were in our own end defending and were able to break and get some counterattack goals."
Freshman Jersey Garoutte unofficially netted her first goal as a Tiger in the 23rd minute. Garoutte was surrounded by Broncho defenders but found enough space down the side to chip in a shot over the goalkeeper from a difficult angle.
"We call her 'Crazy Legs' because she just does those things," Reynolds said. "She goes down the side and somehow she beats four people. That was a big moment. It takes pressure off us and gives us momentum."
The Tigers added an insurance goal with under 10 minutes left in the half. A wide-open Macy Decker put home a ball in the box on an assist from Amanda Rapaduski.
"Just a beautiful finish," Reynolds said. "So happy for [Decker]. She's a kid that's worked so hard. Hasn't played a lot the first two years and now has earned a nice role for us. Just a fantastic goal, and it gave us some breathing room."
Two local products — junior Deonna Wellbrock (TMP-Marian) and Isabel Robben (Hays High) combined for the shutout in goal. Wellbrock played the first half and Robben the second.
"That's a lot of fun to have the local kids representing the university and doing well, really well," Reynolds said.
Reynolds said this spring has been a good introduction to the next level for his 11 freshmen.
"They've been through so much over the course of this year," he said. "Finally getting to be back in this competitive environment and getting to play, it's kind of the reward for all the work that they've done all year long.
"It's just exciting. You got a freshman that gets her first goal today in Jersey. It's pretty neat. It's fun to watch."
Reynolds noted that some of the Tigers' top goal scorers have been injured, including junior Cailey Perkins, who led the team in goals in each of the past two years. Reynolds said Perkins is expected to be back soon.
FHSU will now enter a five-match slate against its MIAA divisional opponents for spring competition. The standings within FHSU's division with Emporia State, Missouri Western, Nebraska-Kearney, Northwest Missouri State and Washburn will determine matchups for the MIAA Tournament brackets at the end of the spring.
The Tigers were set to open the divisional slate at UNK on Saturday.