Soccer faces Arkansas State after strong non-conference season

By: 

Sports Reporter

After finishing 5-3-1 in non-conference play, the Texas State soccer team is fixing the flaws in its game to prepare for the start of Sun Belt Conference play this weekend. 

Texas State has already shown improvement from last season, as the Bobcats were 3-5-1 going into their first year of the Sun Belt Conference.

Coach Kat Conner believes the team had a solid non-conference season, but losses to Texas Christian, UTSA and Texas showed Texas State still has room for improvement.

“For conference play we are going to continue making our attacks as quick as we can and finishing,” Conner said. “We get a lot of good looks, but we aren’t finishing. Defensively, we are trying to make sure we work together better as a unit instead of individually.”

A key game in the beginning of the Bobcats’ conference season is their matchup against Arkansas-Little Rock. UALR boasts a +34 goal differential in nine games and is currently undefeated.

“From what I have seen, UALR’s play is more disciplined this year,” Conner said. “They defend as a unit, similar to our idea, which makes it so hard for opponents to break them down. This is going to be a tough key matchup no matter what.”

UALR forward Fali Garuba leads the team with six goals on the season. The Trojans have six players with four or more goals.

In nine games, UALR has scored 36 goals. The Trojans rotate between goalkeepers, with Bre Ilkuf playing a team high of 450 minutes. Ilkuf’s teammate, Sara Cavanagh, has not allowed a goal in 315 consecutive minutes.

Conner is well aware of the team’s success this past season. She has stressed the importance of the game plan to contain UALR’s star players.

“We play a three-back system to make it appear as a five-back system,” Conner said. “It depends on where we can put the pressure, where we are on the field and the pressure we’re able to apply to target the players and ensure they don’t get away from us.”

Before the Bobcats’ matchup against UALR, they will play Arkansas State, a team they defeated 3-0 last season.

Arkansas State concluded non-conference play with a 3-6 record, capping the slate with an 8-0 shutout against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Arkansas State has allowed a conference-worst 18 goals and has cycled through different goalkeepers.

“They can be such a dangerous group,” Conner said. “They have two starting front runners that are so athletic. We have to be very disciplined in our attack so that we don’t lose the ball.”

Tori Hale, senior forward, Rachel Grout, freshman midfielder, and Kassi Hormuth, freshman forward, lead the team with three goals each.

Caitlynn Rinehart, junior goalkeeper, has played a pivotal role with 34 saves in her 824 minutes of play.

“I always think our goalkeeper should get more action in practice than in the game, mainly because I enforce team defending,” Conner said. “Some opponents are just really good, but all we ask of her is to be mentally focused and prepared for anything.”