FULLERTON, CA – Hope International opened its 2017 season with a home match against the Shepherd University Thundering and came away with a resounding shutout victory in regulation. The Thundering Herd only dressed 11 women for the match and played through the final horn, but HIU was simply too talented for a brand-new Shepherd program to stop.
Leigha Williams was HIU's star of the match and helped the Royals average nearly a goal per minute through the opening five minutes of play – the Royals needed only 95 seconds to net the game-winning goal after Kelly Ruiz and Bekka Guadarrama set up Kelsey Arenado for a score. Arenado would net another three minutes later and finished the afternoon with a pair of goals to open the season.
Leigha Williams netted her first goal of the season a minute after Arenado's first, picking off a pass from a Shepherd player and then carrying the ball herself before firing from straight on at point-blank range passed the keeper. Williams would finish the afternoon with three goals on three shots for the tidiest hat trick possible in just 41 minutes on the pitch.
Jazzmyn Esquivel was the third returning player for the Royals to score multiple goals in the match, netting one in each half and dishing out an assist as well. The final Royals to score on multiple strikes was freshman Jax Skvarla, who converted two of her three shots on goal into scoring tallies during her collegiate debut.
Kelly Ruiz, Miranda Flores, Joanna Perone, Jenna Pinkerton, and Natalie Valdez each tallied a goal apiece during the match to make the score 14-0 – Perone also created an own-goal by the Shepherd back line after a blocked shot dribbled into the back of the net instead of being cleared successfully.
HIU took 40 shots without allowing a single attempt from the Thundering Herd – Shepherd failed to advance the ball into the Royals' box and only crossed the midline twice in either half, leaving keepers Casey Pulido and Jacqueline Talley free to collect a fairly worry-free shared shutout to start the year. HIU's back line and the keepers were able to work on their ball skills throughout the second half as Coach Matt Sanger instructed his team to play the ball all the way from front to back before mounting an attack throughout the second period.
"We had a great first result of the year [against Shepherd]," Coach Sanger said after the match. "Shepherd is a young program, but they worked hard thought the whole match and didn't quit. We were able to get a lot of girls time on the field and several scored their first collegiate goal today.
[The level of] competition will increase for us going forward but today gave us a chance to work on possession and forward movement." Valdez, Pinkerton, Flores, and Skvarla were among those to net their first collegiate goal during the match for HIU.
With an eye towards the increased competition, HIU will be back in action at home on Saturday, Aug. 26 as the Royals host UC Merced at Fullerton College. Game time is set for 12:00 pm - live stats and a recap following the match will be available at hiuroyals.com.