Co-written by Seth Horton and Michael Chapman
Despite a number of thrillers over the weekend, Union sports went 1-5 in a weekend that featured the volleyball team’s home opener, a pair of doubleheaders at the soccer field, and several busfuls of students from Shorter and Lee Universities.
The Lady Bulldogs are off to their best start since joining NCAA Division II, but they suffered two Gulf South Conference losses over the weekend, including a 5-set heartbreaker against Shorter on Friday night.
Cece Blanchard, senior graphic art and photography major, dazzled the home crowd during pregame warmups and proved to be even better during the match. She racked up 15 kills to only one error, and picked up the decisive block in the 3rd set, which Union won 25-23 to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Katie O’Malley, sophomore exercise science major, described the scene after the 3rd set.
“Being on the court looking around seeing the stands standing up and cheering just gives you chills,” O’Malley said. “Honestly our fans give us the confidence we need in tight matches and they make us want to keep fighting!”
On Saturday afternoon, the Lady Bulldogs lost another tight contest, 3-1 to Shorter. If there is one thing the Lady Bulldogs can improve on, it is closing sets; they held at least a five-point lead in four of the six sets they dropped over the weekend.
The Lady Bulldogs will host Mississippi College on Tuesday night as they continue to seek that elusive first win in Gulf South play.
While the volleyball team was warming up on Friday night Union’s women’s soccer team was busy winning their match against the Lady Hawks 4-1 before dropping a Sunday game against Lee by just one goal.
In the game against Shorter, The Lady Bulldogs started off with authority, dominating possession and forcing an own goal early in the first half. They continued to maintain possession in the attacking third for an impressive amount of time. However, despite getting some good opportunities, they were unable to put any more point up until the second half, when three women successfully extended the lead.
This marked the second game in a row that the women’s team had won. In two games the Lady Bulldogs have scored ten goals by nine different players.
“To be honest with you, in soccer [having so many different players who can score] is a big deal,” Isaac Brooks, Union head coach, said. “It shows that we can just rotate girls in and rotate, rotate, rotate, and they’re all going to perform.”
Despite success in their previous two games, though, the Lady Bulldogs could not get anything going in the first half against Lee, managing only two shots on a stingy Flames’ defense.
Union’s senior goalkeeper Kristen Francis nearly helped her team get extra minutes, stopping the first nine shots she faced and 12 of 13 overall. The onslaught by the Lady Flames proved too much when Lauren Peters, junior special education major, put the game-winner in late in the second half.
The Lady Bulldogs will take a road trip to Mississippi next weekend to take on a 1-7 Delta State squad along with the upstart Mississippi College Choctaws, who just upset the #5 team in the country.
The Bulldogs could have just as easily come out of the weekend 2-0 as 0-2, but 2017 continues to treat this team unkindly as their quest for win number one has carried them well into September.
Against Shorter on Friday night, Union struck first and maintained a one goal lead up until the end of the first half, when excellent passing lead to a Shorter goal to tie the game.
Neither team was able to gain an edge in the second half as the crowd witnessed a defensive slugfest. When the game went into extra overtime, not much changed as both teams continued to deny opportunities for a goal.
However, in the second overtime, Daniel Bile, senior biology major, drilled a goal into the back of the net for Union. It was a short lived victory, though, as the referee did not allow the advantage to play on and instead called for a free kick. Union’s free kick just missed, and a few minutes later, Shorter was able to make an opening and go for the kill.
Steven Cox, Union head coach, revealed that the referee who called back the goal came up and apologized after the game for making “the wrong call.”
The Bulldogs’ woes continued on Sunday when Lee’s goalkeeper Tristan Putnam, senior accounting major, stopped all six of Union’s second half attempts and led the Flames to a 1-0 win.
The Bulldogs will get their next crack at the win column on Friday when they travel to face a two-win Delta State squad, which is also yet to win since Gulf South play began.