Welcome to The Doghouse, a weekly column recapping Union University sports action from the weekend.
Women’s soccer clinched a spot in the Gulf South Conference tournament with a win over North Alabama Saturday, while men’s soccer went 0-2 and volleyball went 1-1.
Ranked No. 9 in the GSC preseason rankings, the Lady Bulldogs soccer team entered Saturday’s matchup tied with defending GSC Champions North Alabama for 6th place in conference with 21 points. The game’s winner would advance to the postseason.
The game’s lone goal came from senior Kayleigh Patterson in the 21st minute of play. Senior Kelsey Wilkes pulled UNA goal keeper Kate Webster out of the goal with a shot of her own, setting up Patterson with the open net opportunity.
“It was a group effort because it really did start, like all our points start, from our keeper,” Patterson said. “Then we had [Wilkes] pressuring, and I got lucky that we capitalized on [UNA’s] mistakes.”
With it being Senior Day, Patterson said that she felt relief after scoring. Throughout the rest of the game, Union gave it all they could to give their seniors another game.
“We just kept that mindset that we’re not letting [UNA] get through, no matter what it takes,” Patterson said. “We had enough willpower that we weren’t going to let them score.”
Union and West Georgia finish the season tied for fifth with 22 conference points, but Union has the better record, giving them the No. 5 seed for the GSC Conference Tournament. For the first round, Union plays at No. 4 West Alabama. Should they win, they will advance to face No. 1 West Florida.
“We’re just going to go out and play hard because we deserve to be in that top four, and that’s where we want to be – playing at West Florida in that next round of the tournament,” Patterson said.
In men’s soccer, Union hosted Auburn University at Montgomery for their final home match of the 2016 season.
AUM scored first with a goal from Michael Hettler on a free kick in the 10th minute. In the 50th minute, Alan Harwell scored off a rebounded save to put AUM up 2-0. Within a minute, Union’s Robel Dent netted a long free kick off of a Zac Fletcher assist.
The score stayed 2-1 until time expired.
Eight cards were dealt in the match, including two to Union’s Kyle Yeoman. Yeoman received a red card in the 83rd minute. Union and AUM combined for 41 shots in the game, the most for a Union match this year.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs traveled to Ouachita Baptist to close out the season, falling 1-0.
In the sixth minute, Ouachita’s Logan Hampton passed the ball toward Tucker Johnston. Johnston dove and hit a header into the back of the net. The Tigers held their lead until the end of regulation.
Union finishes the season with an overall record of 5-12 and a GSC record of 3-6.
Friday night, Union volleyball defeated visiting Alabama Huntsville 3-2.
Union won the first two sets with scores of 25-17 and 25-23. In the first set, the Lady Bulldogs never trailed. In the second, Union opened the set 2-0, but then trailed 3-2. The set was very back and forth until Union closed it out.
“Being at home is a big psychological advantage for us,” Darrin McClure, Union head coach, said. “We were excited to get back home after being on the road for most of October. I think all those contributed to our start.”
UAH changed the storyline in the third and fourth sets, however. In the third, they started with a 6-1 run and exploded to a 25-11 victory. In the fourth, they started with a 4-0 advantage and won 25-13.
“We didn’t respond well to UAH playing better,” McClure said. “Not performing in those sets is a sign of a lack of maturity. We are learning, even this late in the season.”
McClure’s team rekindled their energy in the fifth set, winning 15-9.
“Kristen Goggin got us off to a good start with her aggressive serves,” McClure said. “That changed the momentum for us.”
In the win, Deja Moorer and Suheily Colon-Rodriguez led with 11 kills each, while Huguley led with 42 assists. Colon-Rodriguez added seven blocks and Huguley added six.
Saturday, Union lost to North Alabama, the No. 2 team in the GSC.
Union opened with a 4-2 run, but UNA responded with a 4-0 run. The Lions dominated the remainder of the set, closing it out with a 5-2 run to win 25-18. In the second set, Union led 5-4, but UNA tied the game at 6-6 and went on to win 25-16. In the final set, UNA led from the start. Union stayed close until the end, when UNA strung together an 8-2 run to win 25-18.
UNA relied on their size, recording 42 kills to Union’s 34, but Union stayed in the match thanks to impressive digs and long points. The Lady Bulldogs had seven blocks and 48 digs, while the Lions had four blocks and 47 digs.
“Our ‘scramble’ plays or long rallies were actually encouraging to me,” McClure said. “Against an offensively efficient team like UNA, it showed discipline on our part.”
Statistically, Union’s leaders were Moorer with 11 kills, Huguley with 30 assists, Katie O’Malley with 14 digs, Ceciley Blanchard and Christa Karns with three blocks each, and Goggin with two aces.
O’Malley, freshman, has been managing calf and shin cramps, and had to exit Tuesday’s game against Shorter as a result. She returned to competition with intensity this past weekend.
McClure said, “[O’Malley] is a very tough player, mentally and physically. If she can play, she will play. That’s just her mindset. UU fans should be excited to see her play more over the next few years.”
Other freshmen are showing leadership on the court. Over the years, Huguley, senior, would encourage her teammates after a mistake with “we’re good”. Now, Taylor Chiaro will help her teammates mid-point with instructions such as “cross, cross”, and Abbie Rahn is not afraid to say, “my bad, let’s get the next one.” This squad is all about high fives and celebrations.
“We are a family,” McClure said. “We talk about that all the time. The closer we get to each other, I believe, the harder we will play for each other.”
After the weekend, the Lady Bulldogs are 9-18 overall and 6-10 in conference action.
“Our conference is good. It takes consistent effort point by point,” McClure said. “We are getting better, but we still have a lot to improve on. I look forward to seeing the potential we have on this team going forward.”
The Lady Bulldogs hit the road Friday to play West Florida and then Valdosta State Saturday.
In other sports, it is time for basketball at Union. The women have three upcoming exhibition games and the men have one as well. The Lady Bulldogs play at Kentucky Thursday and at Vanderbilt Sunday. Saturday is Homecoming, so the women host Martin Methodist and the men host Rhodes.