ALBUQUERQUE – The Texas Tech soccer team opened the season with a hard-fought 1-0 shutout of Grand Canyon on Friday night at UNM Soccer Complex.
Junior defender Hannah Fernandez was the offensive hero in the first match of the year, scoring her first collegiate goal in the 70' against the Lopes. The victory was the ninth time in 11 years under head coach Tom Stone the Red Raiders have opened the year with a win.
"Obviously, we are very happy to open the season with a win and given the conditions with the heat at 94 degrees & altitude at 5,300 feet, we had some very bright moments today," Stone said. "The heat took its toll on us and we had to go deep into our bench for fresh legs throughout the game."
It was the first meeting between the two programs, who opened the four-team Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque. The two teams combined for 10 shots, with the Red Raiders totaling seven, including two on goal. Tech had all three corners in the contest and held the Lopes to just three shots over 90 minutes of action.
Twenty Red Raiders saw action in Friday's match, including five freshmen. Forward Ally Griffin recorded a shot that bounced off the post, while goalkeeper Marissa Zucchetto played the second half between the pipes. With the 2017 crew on the field, the Red Raiders have kept both their opponents off the scoreboard and to just five shots (at Denver & vs. GCU).
After a flurry of fouls during the first half of the opening frame, Tech registered the first shot of the night at the 26' mark. Tech's second corner of the night found junior defender Cassie Boren in the box, but her shot attempt was blocked by the GCU defense.
Both teams only picked up one shot in the first half, as the Lopes fired one off from the far right wing that sailed wide left of the Red Raider net in the 33'. The two sides combined for nine fouls in the opening block, with GCU committing five.
Tech started the second frame strong, immediately earning a corner kick that found freshman forward Ally Griffin in the box, who corralled the feed and rung her first shot off the post.
In the 70', the Red Raiders finally broke through for the first goal of the 2017 season. Senior defender Cassie Conarty had her shot blocked by a Lope defender, but the ball deflected to Fernandez, who buried her first collegiate score into the bottom-left corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.
"We took a chance based on the aggressive nature of Fernando and we put her up front," Stone said. "In a short period of time, she created two chances for herself, so when it was time to make changes in the second half, we went back to her and she came through huge for us. I don't think she's spent a single minute up top in her three years here, but she had the right attitude today and we are so happy for her to get the game-winner."
Heading into Friday's match, Fernandez had taken only one shot, which came against West Virginia last year in the Big 12 Tournament.
Tech kept up the offensive pressure after Fernandez' tally, as senior forward Natalie Schmutz & junior midfielder Carly Wickenheiser combined for three shots in the final 20 minutes from inside the box, but couldn't capitalize on the chances.
The Red Raiders return to action on Sunday, Aug. 20, at 2 p.m. against San Francisco in the finale of the Lobo Invitational.