When the top player on the Grand Canyon University women’s soccer team stepped away for a couple of games, a trio of local athletes stepped up to fill the void.
The result was two more wins to make it 10 in the last 11 games for the Antelopes (8-4-2, 7-1-1), who are sitting in second place in the Pacific West Conference, a game behind undefeated California Baptist.
Marina Nesic, the junior midfielder who leads the ‘Lopes offense, took time off to play for the Serbia national team in its qualifier for the 2013 UEFA Women’s European Championship last Saturday. She has played for the “A” national team in her native Serbia since 2005, the youngest player on the squad.
Nesic, who is tied for first place in the conference for points this season with 22, was scheduled back today. But that meant she missed both games against Academy of Art University.
So Cierra Valdez, Caitlin Cartwright, and Kelli Woodard assumed the scoring responsibilities – and held the fort until Nesic could return.
Valdez, a sophomore from Westview High School in Avondale, scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory in the opener Thursday night, and then picked up where she left off to notch the opening score in the second game. The 5’4″ midfielder was a first-team All-Region and Player of the Year in her junior and senior years at Westview.
Cartwright, a freshman forward/midfielder from Cienega High in Tucson, picked up the second goal in Saturday’s game, scoring the first of her college career in the 68th minute, when she took a cross from the right side, turned, and found net.
And Woodard, a senior defender from Deer Valley High, added another insurance goal three minutes later on a penalty kick, giving her two goals on the season – both off penalty kicks.
Saturday’s game was perhaps the most colorful of the season – literally. It was a home game for GCU and players wore special pink jerseys to promote breast cancer awareness, pink balloons were released into the air before player introductions and also spread around the field, and the even the lines on the field were painted pink.
But there won’t be much in the way of festivities for their next game on Wednesday. The ‘Lopes will meet first-place California Baptist in Riverside for a chance to wrestle away the top spot in the PacWest.
Playing the best team in the conference on the road is the bad news. The good news is that Nemic, and her 6 1/2 shots per game, will be back in the line-up.
(Photo: GCU Athletics)