Fort Lewis College women’s soccer redshirt sophomore midfielder Courtney Wamboldt has always trusted her delivery during set pieces, specifically from corner kicks. But even for her, this was truly an exception.
Wamboldt delivered the unlikeliest of game-winners Friday afternoon at Dirks Field when she scored off of a corner kick to give the Skyhawks a 2-1 win over Eastern New Mexico University with just 18 seconds remaining in the game.
“This was my first collegiate goal. It felt good to be out there with the team, and I was just trying to bring something home for all of us, and it was a great home win,” said Wamboldt. “We’ve been working hard on set pieces, and every week we’ve been practicing them and that was actually one our plays, so it felt good ... to see something on the training pitch come together like it did.”
Fort Lewis (1-1-1) managed a corner kick in the game’s final seconds, and all Wamboldt heard was Skyhawks’ coach Damian Clarke yelling from the technical area, “Calm down, calm down.” Wamboldt took a deep breath, waited for the remaining teammates to get in position in the box and whipped in the in-swinger, finding the top right corner of the net.
“I checked the game clock and saw there were 38 seconds remaining and knew that was enough time to take it,” Wamboldt said. “Thirty-eight seconds is a lot of time in college soccer and anything can happen, and fortunately something did.”
Clarke thought his team deserved the points and knew his team wanted to prevent its second consecutive overtime, and so he told them to get forward in search of the winner.
“I think, obviously, if you’re able to keep your head in those moments that you’d like to think you’ll perform if you do get the chance,” Clarke said. “We got one and we’re fortunate enough to keep the ball directly in from a corner kick which doesn’t happen that often.”
The match was slow to take shape, as the teams played it safe for the first 15 minutes of the game. FLC nearly got on the board with a header from Britney Johnson, but her header was saved in the 16th minute. The Greyhounds got two significant chances halfway through the first half when Kaitlyn Caro’s shot sailed wide and Anahi Hernandez’s shot was saved by Skyhawks goalkeeper Britt Blomso at the half hour mark. The sides ended the first half scoreless.
Despite FLC being in control for most of the match, it was not until midway through the second half that the Skyhawks broke the deadlock. In the 69th minute, Wamboldt drove in a ball from a corner kick that found traffic, was deflected off of the post, and during the mad scramble in the box, the ball bounced kindly to waiting freshman forward Skylar Byrnes, who tapped it in to give FLC the 1-0 lead.
The goal was extra meaningful for the freshman, as Byrnes tweeted out after the game, “Just wanted to say that this goal was dedicated to my Uncle Josh who recently passed away this week.” It was Byrnes’ first career goal in a Skyhawks uniform.
It would not be the game’s only goal, as the Greyhounds (0-1-1) equalized at one with just 10 minutes remaining. FLC defender Emma Patron was issued a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on a Greyhounds midfielder, and on the ensuing free kick from about 45 yards out, Bailey Bosley took a shot that ended up bouncing off of Blomso’s hands and into the back of the net.
Fort Lewis kept applying pressure, as it did all game. In the game’s final seconds, that’s when Wamboldt played hero.
“After (Eastern New Mexico’s goal), it was all about keeping together as a group,” Wamboldt said. “We knew we had to press forward and stay tight, and once we stayed tight, we made it easier to defend as a unit, score as a unit and win as a unit.”
Clarke said the team had worked on set pieces all week and it paid off in dramatic fashion.
“It’s funny enough, yesterday was the only day that we didn’t get to do much training, but we did get to do set pieces,” Clarke said. “And I think that concentration has made a big difference.”
The Skyhawks will have a quick turnaround when they play West Texas A&M at 1 p.m. Sunday at Dirks Field.