Photo by Gerald Castillo
Bobcats secure Sun Belt regular-season championship with win over Coastal Carolina
When the clock hit zeroes, Texas State’s celebration was on.
The emotions were everywhere. Some cried. Others screamed in excitement. Teammates hugged. A championship banner was unraveled, and Sun Belt title shirts were presented.
The Bobcats secured the Sun Belt regular-season championship with a 1-0 win over Coastal Carolina in front of a capacity crowd of 500 at Bobcat Soccer Complex on Sunday.
“This is an amazing feeling,” senior midfielder Kelly Barbalias said. “I mean, we’ve been working for this for four years. So, falling short of that has always been kind of hard, especially last year when we came so close. So, being able to capture this moment and capture the win and the title is amazing.”
Texas State (10-5-2, 8-0-2 Sun Belt) came into the 2018 season with goals of winning the conference regular-season championship, Sun Belt tournament title, and clinch a berth into the NCAA tournament.
The Bobcats accomplished one goal on Sunday, but getting to that point was tough at the start. Texas State struggled with the non-conference slate by finishing with a 2-5-0 record. But the Bobcats caught fire in the Sun Belt play. Texas State never lost a match in conference competition.
“It was great to see the girls and how the administration knew that we were going to win, they had T-shirts already made for them,” head coach Kat Conner said. “When the girls saw that I think they just went excited. They’ve had people that believed in them and knew that they could win it and it just made them more giggly and more bouncy, and that to me is what I do this for. To tell you the truth, I do this for them. The way they respond, it’s just such joy and it fills you up as coach. All of the hard work, all of the long days you put in, it’s to see those smiles on their faces and the parents so giddy about it too.”
With a conference championship on the line Sunday, Conner said the Bobcats came out timid.
The nervousness showed. Texas State’s offense couldn’t get going in the first half, while Coastal Carolina pressured the Bobcats. But the first half ended at 0-0.
Texas State came out aggressive in the second half and put up two quick shots but couldn’t find the back of the net.
The Bobcats finally broke through in the 64th minute when junior forward Kaylee Davis had a one-on-one opportunity. Davis battled with the Chanticleer defender and when she went right, Davis cut left. Davis sent a shot passed the outstretched arms of Coastal Carolina sophomore goalkeeper Eva Knapstein to give Texas State a 1-0 advantage.
Davis’ 16th goal of the season was all the Bobcats needed to secure the victory and the Sun Belt title.
“It’s insane,” Davis said. “We’ve been talking about this since even last year. So, for it to finally happen and end it here at home and win conference is so awesome.”
Texas State’s Sun Belt title-clinching victory also came during senior day where the Bobcats honored its two seniors: Barbalias and senior defender Jamie Brown. Conner said it was special to win on senior day.
“The last two years we have not won here on senior day, and we still love them and we still celebrate them, but to tell you the truth it makes it extra special when you can win on senior day, and go win a championship on senior day,” Conner said. “It really makes it really special. To tell you the truth, it’s the best for those two seniors because Jamie Brown, obviously (hurt) her ACL her freshman year. Kelly has gone through many injuries through it.
“So, to see their perseverance through these whole four years that it’s paid off for them to stay dedicated and stay committed and keep doing all of their rehab and all of the years of commitment and training, I’m glad it’s paid off for them. It’s phenomenal.”
Now with a Sun Belt regular-season championship in hand, Texas State has its sights on its next two goals when the conference tournament begins on Oct. 31 in Foley, Ala.
“This was the first step,” Davis said. “This is our the first goal. So, to check that off is awesome, but we have the opportunity to play three more games and win those and we continue. So, we’re not done.”