By Jeremy Hoeck
For 60 minutes, USD and nationally-ranked Denver locked horns for an evenly-played stretch of soccer.
It was just the stretches before and after that span that ultimately doomed the Coyotes. The 16th-ranked Pioneers, an NCAA Tournament from a year ago, blanked USD 4-0 in Summit League action Sunday afternoon in Vermillion.
Edge to the more experienced visitors, specifically in the second half when Denver scored three goals within an 8-minute span to pull away.
“For whatever reason, it seems like we kind of gave up,” said USD coach Mandy Green, whose Coyotes (5-7-3, 0-4) have now lost five straight.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about a lot, leadership on the field, someobody stepping up and calming us down.”
Facing a team that has two top-25 victories under its belt, USD surrendered a goal in the seventh minute and kept the Pioneers scoreless until the 70th minute.
“We even saw on video how well they can stay composed, no matter what pressure they have against them,” said USD goalkeeper Mackenzie Viktor, who made three saves.
“I thought they did that well today, but I also think we took it to them more than they were expecting.”
In the end, though, the Pioneers (14-1-1, 5-0) claimed their fifth shutout in five league games — they are out-scoring conference teams 19-0.
Four different players scored a goal Sunday for Denver, which is coming off a Sweet 16 run at last year’s NCAA Tournament. Kristen Hamilton, the Summit League leader in goals, assists and points, recorded an assist in the win.
Still, the Coyotes are confident they were able to hang with the Pioneers, Viktor said.
“I think they’re definitely a solid team, regardless of how you look at it,” she said. “But at the same time, I almost expected more.”
Along those same lines, the Coyotes expected more from themselves, Green said. Denver held the edge in shots at 14-6, and seemed to surge in the final 20 minutes.
“We kind of stopping playing, stopped trapping runners, stopped defending, stopped communicating,” Green said. “All those things are things I know and they know, when we do it well, we can compete against any team we play.
“When that stops, things go bad quickly.”
Already out of Summit League Tournament consideration, the Coyotes have three games remaining in the regular season — starting Friday at Fort Wayne.
“If we do that good stuff against the last three teams we play against, we can win those last three games, there’s no doubt,” Green said.
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