RICHARDSON, Texas — Jessica Hernandez finally found her finishing touch and struck twice to lift the University of La Verne women's soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Texas-Dallas on Sunday afternoon at UT Dallas Soccer Field.
La Verne moves to 1-2 on the season and Texas-Dallas opens its season 0-1.
Playing their third game in just four days and a night after controlling the play against St. Thomas (Minn.) but not getting a desired result, the Leopards had to dig deep and they did.
"To get to go home having played well and grabbing a win is sweet," La Verne head coach Lauryn Pehanich said. "Playing at UTD's home field, with us playing our third game in four days and [UTD] having fresh legs, walking away with a win feels really good."
Hernandez's first goal in the 18th minute felt like a bucket of ice water on a hot Texas afternoon. Mackenna Tippin played a low cross from the right wing that seemed headed to Amanda Silveira butshe dummied it to Hernandez and Hernandez rocketed it into the upper right corner to to give the Leopards their first lead of the season.
The Leopards kept up the pressure and Hernandez converted another chance in the 25th minute. Alexa Smith came out of a midfield scrum with the ball, bombed down the left side and found Hernandez with a good cross. Hernandez took one touch and calmly drove one to low far post to stake the Leopards out to a two-goal lead.
"Jessica is a workhorse," Pehanich said of her striker. "One thing we've been talking to her about his being more simple when she's not around the penalty box. She listened this weekednd, took the advice to heart and she was successful. Being simple outside of the box gave her more opportunities to attack when we actually got into it."
Hernandez made her presence felt outside of her goals as well. She held the ball up well in the front and made some key defensive stops down the stretch playing deeper into midfield.
The Leopards gave one back late in the first half when Megan Mugavero scored off her own rebound in the 42nd minute, but with a big help from freshman goalkeeper Sabrina Sandoval, bore down defensively the rest of the game.
Sandoval, who got the nod to start the first collegiate game of her career after a minor injury to Heather Seman, played like a seasoned veteran and made two huge saves in the second half. In the 65th minute, UTD's Maegan Chavez had a good look just five yards from the left post but Sandoval hauled it in. The most impressive save of the game came in the 83rd minute. Jacquie Kaufman fired off a shot from about 25 yards that headed straight to goal but Sandoval made a leap and punched it over the crossbar to preserve the win for the Leopards.
"Sabrina stepped up big time because that's not an easy position to step into, let alone coming in as a freshman, away from home, stepping into your first collegiate match," Pehanich said. "Mentally she was up to the task and physically as well, as you saw with the saves."
The Leopards return to action next Sunday at home against Embry-Riddle. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.