Southern Illinois University Edwardsville women’s soccer got an early goal and used a staunch defensive effort to shutout Ohio Valley Conference leader UT Martin 1-0 Sunday at Skyhawk Field.
With the win, SIUE improved to 11-4-3 overall and 5-3-1 in OVC play. The five wins mark the most for SIUE in three seasons playing an OVC schedule. UT Martin, which would have clinched the OVC regular season title with a win, dropped to 9-8-1 overall and 7-2 in the OVC. The Skyhakws still sit in first place in the Conference.
“The credit goes to our girls,” SIUE Head Coach Derek Burton said. “They found it within themselves today. It was a tall challenge-going to the conference leader and winning on their field. The girls rose to the challenge.”
The lone goal of the day came from SIUE senior Erin DiGiovanni. Tory Pitts picked up the assist on the 10th minute-score. Pitts’ initial cross was blocked; she won the ball back, and hit a bouncing ball across the box. DiGiovanni was on the other end where she hit a full volley past UT Martin goalkeeper Mariah Klenke for her third goal of the season.
“It is the goal of the year so far,” Burton said. “Erin ripped it into the net. Tory created an opportunity and Erin buried it.”
The assist is the sixth of the year for Pitts, which is tied for the most in the OVC. Pitts is now second on the team with 14 points thanks to four goals to go along with the six assists.
“She’s had some more playing time in the absence of Sarah (Doggendorf),” Burton said of Pitts. “She’s made a real impact.”
UT Martin outshot SIUE 18-9 for the game. The Skyhaws held a 10-4 advantage in the second half in shots.
“They didn’t dominate the way the shots would indicate, but they dominated possession,” Burton added. “We were really good defensively today.
The play of our backline was unbelievable,” Burton continued. “And not just our starting four; they all played well. They played really good against a really good UT Martin team.”
SIUE goalkeeper Jennifer Pelley tied her career high with nine saves. The shutout is the seventh this season for Pelley and the 16th of her career, tying her with Marilyn Kastner (1988-91) for third on the career list.
“Jen made some really nice plays, especially coming off her line and playing some crosses,” Burton said.
The Cougars finish the 2013 regular season with a 2 p.m. game Sunday at Eastern Illinois. The Panthers currently are just two points ahead of the Cougars (18-16) in a tie for third place in the OVC standings. Depending on the final week’s results, SIUE could finish as high as third place.