Behind a brace from senior Hailey Furio and an attacking masterclass from the Red Wolves, the Arkansas State soccer team defeated Louisiana-Monroe 6-1 Sunday afternoon at the A-State Soccer Complex.
The Red Wolves (2-0, 1-0 SBC) dominated from the start when Furio opened the scoring in the 17th minute after Sarah Sodoma collected the ball on the left wing and played a perfectly weighted ball across the middle for Furio to finish calmly.
The Illinois native completed her brace with a great finish from the right side of the box in the 79th minute to put the Red Wolves ahead 4-1.
“It was really exciting,” Furio said. “I think we just had a really good energy today and I was excited to able to get that kick start for our team. I think we had a lot of energy following that.”
A-State planned for Sophia Restrepo to be the main center attacking midfielder this season in the 4-2-3-1, but with the Florida native’s decision to return home, Furio stepped up to the mark.
“We’re definitely going to miss Soph,” Furio said. “She was a really strong player in that attacking mid position. But I had a role of finding those seams in between and driving forward. I just found the spaces in between and found the gaps.”
Olivia Smith returned to the pitch after serving her one game suspension for a red card in last season’s SBC Final and did exactly what she needed to up top for the Red Wolves.
The defender-turned-forward played with great physical presence throughout the match and scored A-State’s second goal in the 24th minute after bullying past the Warhawks’ backline and finishing into the bottom left corner to put A-State ahead 2-0.
“When [Sarah] cuts in, we want Olivia making that run against the center backs and fighting for position which allows Sarah even more space,” A-State head coach Brian Dooley said. “It also allows Liv to hunt for rebounds and loose balls in the box. Olivia has a lot of potential to probably get five or six more goals for us for sure.”
The Red Wolves did lose a little momentum in the game after some first half substitutions and it looked like the visitors might work their way into the match.
“We wanted to make sure we weren’t overplaying kids early in the season,” Dooley said. “I think we went and made some substitutions maybe a little bit earlier than we should have. We kind of lost a bit of the rhythm of the game.”
The Warhawks scored their lone goal of the match when a ULM shot was sent over the head of A-State keeper Megan McClure. The shot bounced down off the crossbar before Courtney Marten was there to tap the ball over the line bringing the game to a 2-1 scoreline in the 43rd minute.
However, A-State bounced back and took control of the match in the second half.
Sodoma tied Loren Mitchell for all-time leading goal scorer in A-State’s history with 23 goals when the St. Louis native tucked away a cool finish from the spot in the 65th minute to put A-State ahead 3-1.
“It’s really exciting for me,” Sodoma said. “I’m looking to be able to break it this year hopefully. It’s really exciting to accomplish something like that for me and for my team as a whole.”
Sodoma won the penalty she eventually took herself. While using her blistering pace and a bit of skill, the senior cut in on her left in the box before a Warhawk defender sent her to the ground with a nudge in the back.
Last week at UCA Victoria MacIntosh took A-State’s penalty kick, but this week Sodoma tucked the opportunity away.
“It was just kind of spur of the moment,” Sodoma said. “I told Victoria to take the last one and I kind of just wanted this one. I just needed to get off to a good start this season.”
Sodoma has been a standout since day one at A-State.
“First of all it’s well deserved,” Dooley said. “She’s somebody that from the very first day has been a team first kid. She works her tail off, she plays through injuries, she’s there for her teammates all the time. She’s an incredible, quiet leader. When she says something, everybody’s going to listen. To see this for her is awesome.”
Sodoma also tied Christina Fink for second most assists in A-State history with 13 total after two assists in the win over ULM.
The Red Wolves piled on the goals in the second half. Sodoma scored her penalty before Furio tacked on her brace and then Haley Husted got in on the action in the 82nd minute.
The junior outside back pounced on a saved Sodoma shot and tapped in the rebound to put A-State ahead 5-1.
Freshman Darby Stotts played with energy and looks like a very promising prospect for the Red Wolves moving forward as the Little Rock native scored the Red Wolves final goal of the afternoon.
Stotts took a shot on her left foot that flew into the top right corner to put A-State ahead 6-1 in the 83rd minute.
“I think that end [of the game] was just us picking up confidence and just knowing what we can do and what we can combine and find,” Furio said.
Freshmen Lauren Shah, Hailey Cloud and Rachel Kutella looked solid and composed in the back for the second week in a row.
“They’re going to continue to get better,” Dooley said. “After the second goal it was more just like hitting the ball from station to station with no idea or purpose. Rachel would play it to Hailey, Hailey would play it to Rachel so [ULM] shut them down quickly. They didn’t have as much comfort on the ball when they started to press. In the second half we split them a little bit and we told Victoria to drop so we could play through her. Their two center forwards couldn’t press as high as they wanted so that allowed [our center backs] to play with more confidence.”
Kutella remained perfectly position throughout most of the match while constantly intercepting passes, making tackles and playing out of the back.
“I feel like a lot of the reason I’m able to be so calm is because everyone around me is so supportive,” Kutella said. “Especially like the coaches and other players they allow you to make mistakes if you need to in order to learn. There’s not really any reason to rush.”
With three freshmen in the backline, junior Haley Husted holds the most experience and Kutella said Husted’s presence is definitely felt in the back.
“There’s obviously still a lot of things we need to work on, but we know what we need to do,” Kutella said. “So just communicating that with the coaches and juniors in the backline, everybody’s been really helpful.”
The Red Wolves head to Louisiana Sept. 24 to take on the Ragin’ Cajuns at 7 p.m. before returning home Sept. 27 to host Texas State at 1 p.m.
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