Stingy defense and a game-winner from sophomore midfielder Tristen Sherley (Novato, CA) lifted the University of Redlands women's soccer team to a 2-1 victory over 18th-ranked Illinois Wesleyan University in Friday's season opener on Farquhar Field.
Early in the first half, senior goalkeeper Brittany Dinkins (Renton, WA) protected the net for the Bulldogs by making three consecutive saves over the span of three minutes.
Moments later, Redlands made a quality shot on goal. But the Titans successfully completed the counterattack for the inaugural goal of the game in the 19th minute.
Nonetheless, the Bulldogs remained poised and connected on the equalizer at the 40:31-mark of the opening frame. About six minutes after checking into the game, senior forward Gabby Hart (Burien, WA) took advantage of a one-on-one opportunity with fancy footwork and then pelted the ball into the back of the net to knot the game at 1-1.
Less than two minutes later, IWU laid one more shot on goal from distance, but Dinkins leaped up to make an impressive save and send the teams into halftime with a draw.
In the second half, first-year goalkeeper Courtney Stewart (San Jose, CA) checked into the match and registered a pair of saves within her first 10 minutes of action. The Bulldogs' defense continued to step up, with Hart making a tough defensive save at the 56:45-mark. Deeper into the half, the Titans nearly scored on a breakaway attempt, but Stewart was there for a pair of point-blank saves that energized the Maroon and Gray.
With the home crowd tuned in, the Bulldogs capitalized on the momentum shift with the eventual game-winner with just under 18 minutes remaining in the game. Junior forward Emily Falla (Woodinville, WA) settled the ball in the center of the field and tapped it to Sherley. Sherley then turned and launched the first goal of her career from 18 yards out to help the Maroon and Gray take control of a 2-1 advantage.
Despite persistent pressure from the visitors, Redlands' defense held them without a shot for the remainder of the game to cement the season-opening victory.
Leading the defensive effort, Dinkins and Stewart split time in net with six and five saves, respectively.
Redlands (1-0-0) hosts Johnson & Wales University (CO) in a non-conference showdown at 11 a.m. on Sunday, September 1, on Farquhar Field.