Thornton’s late game heroics extends winning streak
The SMU women’s soccer team won in thrilling fashion on Sunday afternoon, knocking off Long Beach State 1-0. The Mustangs’ senior leader Allie Thornton, one of the premier goal scorers in the country, registered the game winning goal in the 85th minute of the match.
With time winding down in regulation, Thornton fired off a flurry of shots at Long Beach goalkeeper Marta Alemany Sanchez. It was the senior’s third shot on goal that broke the scoreless draw. Sophomore Celiana Torres chipped the ball over the defense to give Thornton a step on her defender and the striker took care of the rest. With Long Beach State junior Kaitlin Fregulia draped on her backside, Thornton rifled a ball across her body and into the lower left corner of the goal.
“Celiana (Torres) saw it and played a perfect ball in and I finished it back post. I saw it was open and went for it,” Thornton said of her seventh goal of the season.
For Torres, the sequence marked her fifth assist in just seven games. The Chicago, Illinois product had six assists total in her freshman campaign and both the coaching staff and her teammates remarked on her growth after the contest.
“She has been fantastic. It is something we all knew she could do, and she did last year. The difference between this year and last year is her willingness to engage in the battle,” head coach Chris Petrucelli said. “Now she is jumping up and getting the ball over people twice her size, sliding on the ground to win the ball and defending. She is doing all the little things that last year she really didn’t want to do. She has embraced the other stuff and become a complete player.”
What a finish here at Westcott Field ? Mustangs win it and advance to 6-1 on the season!#PonyUp pic.twitter.com/oZiJbP5tAu
— SMU Women's Soccer (@SMUSoccerW) September 15, 2019
Thornton also credited “arguable all of” her goal scoring prowess to the chances Torres and fellow midfielder Courtney Sebazco create on a nightly basis. On Sunday, the midfield tandem was able to generate 22 shots for the Mustang offense compared to just eight for Long Beach State. The final day of SMU’s homestand marked the third consecutive game the offense went over 20 shots.
Defensively, freshman Tatum Sutherland once again blanked the opposing team. In her fifth shutout of the year, Sutherland was challenged at key moments but swallowed up every dangerous chance. With the game tied in the 32nd minute, the goalkeeper recorded a save on a shot off the foot of Lena Silano that had the potential to change the tenor of the match.
“We were tough. The game didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. It was hard. It was hard to pass the ball, and they put a lot of pressure on us. They forced it to be a scrum in the middle a lot of times. and we had a lot of chances and didn’t put them away,” Petrucelli said. “We were mentally tough all the way throughout and good teams find a way to win games like this.”
Although players and coaches never like to credit the weather for being an excuse, all parties readily acknowledged it was at least a factor. Petrucelli noted he was forced to alter the rotation to keep his players fresh for the final 20 minutes of the match. 16 different Mustangs got into the box score today, with the reserves playing significant minutes in the heart of the game.
The 1-0 victory means the winning streak extends to three games for SMU, who now is 6-1 on the season. Outscoring opponents 7-0 over that span, and outshooting opponents 77-22, the team has a strong case to enter the top 25 for just the second time since 2017. The team will swing through Oklahoma next week to play in Norman on Thursday and then at Oklahoma State on Sunday.
“I think we should be confident going into (the week). Obviously we can’t get too comfortable because they will be two really tough opponents. If we can have a successful weekend there we’re definitely going to be starting conference off on the right foot the following weekend,” Thornton said.