Jaguars Use Strong Second Half to Down Illinois State

After a first half that had IUPUI on the defensive, the Jaguars turned into the aggressors and used two goals from Valentine Pursey to beat the Redbirds, 3-0.

By Ryan Gregory

Heading into the locker room at half time of Sunday’s 3-0 win over Illinois State, the IUPUI women’s soccer team started brewing some confidence and aggression after a scoreless first half.

“We can beat this team. We all got confidence,” said senior defender Leia Peterman. “We just had a boost of energy, and I think that’s what kept us going.”

The scoring got started in the 54th minute with freshman forward Valentine Pursey heading in a ball off a corner kick from senior Krissy Kirkhoff, who had two assists on the afternoon. IUPUI (5-3) seemed destined to convert on a corner opportunity; they took six of them total.

Only 39 seconds later, still in the 54th minute, Pursey had her second goal, and suddenly IUPUI looked like an offensive juggernaut.

Pursey dribbled right to left through the Illinois State defense in the box, not moving fast, but making defenders fold over as they attempted to keep up with her quick feet. From about seven yards out, she tapped the ball with the outside of her right foot and snuck it past the goalkeeper for her fourth goal of the season.

“I’m not very pacey, but I can get around players quite easily,” said Pursey, offering an assessment of how she was able to weave through an entire defense.

It was fitting that the Jaguars got going in the second half. That’s when Illinois State (2-4-1) had given up five of its six goals on the season.

From there, IUPUI found exactly what would work against an Illinois State defensive line that was pushing up the field. The Jaguars started attacking on the left side and delivering accurate center passes to a streaking forward.

Senior forward Beth Parks called it a “snowball in the right direction.”

That approach created multiple scoring chances for the Jaguars, and one was converted in the 59th minute by senior midfielder Hayley Shelton, who made a run up the middle and was found by Kirkhoff from the left side. Shelton beat the defense and ended up with a clean look from 10 yards out.

“We just kind of picked out who their weaker player was and we thought we could run at their right back,” said Shelton, who recorded her first goal of the season “…We just started really attacking off the left side, and it opened some opportunities for us.”

A very similar look almost led to a hat trick for Pursey in the 58th minute, when she made a run through the middle and got a ball from freshman forward Miranda Ricks off the left side. With the goalie coming out on her, Pursey tried getting the ball over her but put it just above the crossbar.

This was a stark contrast from the first half, when the Jaguars were content to play a defensive first half, getting out on counter-attack opportunities when they got the chance. It was a time to adjust to the Redbirds’ style of play and figure out where they could be vulnerable later on.

“In the first half, we just kept compact and made sure they didn’t get anything,” said Pursey. “Even though they had quite a few shots, we didn’t really have anything dangerous go through.”

Illinois State outshot IUPUI 8-2 in the first 45 minutes. Then the Jaguars flipped it to 11-6 in the second half.

The Jaguars went into the second half with the same formation, even the same game plan, according to Peterman.

Shelton said they wanted to test the goalkeeper in the first half and just weren’t able to do it. But after finding a soft spot in the Illinois State defense, opportunities came in bunches.

“I think that was the difference, putting the ball on frame,” said Shelton, “and we got some results from that.”

IUPUI hosts Cleveland State on Sept. 15 for its first ever Horizon League game.

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