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Undefeated Fortuna Tulsa ready for first playoff test

By Thomas Clark, 07/05/19, 6:00AM CDT

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Fortuna Tulsa focused on continuity from its inaugural 2018 season, and it was rewarded with an undefeated 2019 regular season. [Lori Scholl, Fortuna Tulsa]

TULSA, Oklahoma — Fortuna Tulsa clinched an undefeated regular season campaign last Saturday when it defeated Texas Spurs FC 2-1 in front of its home fans at ONEOK Field.

 

For Tulsa coaches and players, the undefeated season marks the culmination of a journey defined by determination, grit and work ethic.

 

Fortuna hosts its first playoff match Saturday vs. AHFC Royals to determine the Red River Conference champion. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. CST at Titan Sports Complex.

 

After struggling through a middling season in 2018, Tulsa returned with many of the same players. The team had finished the 2018 season in third place in the Red River Conference, narrowly missing post-season play.

 

This season, though, the team arrived with a new level of vigor and determination and left nothing to chance.

 

Fortuna began the season with an impressive five-game winning streak before tying at Oklahoma City FC, a game that would prove to be their toughest test of the regular season. Fortuna scored two goals in the final 21 minutes to earn the point, which clinched the North Division championship.

 

For coach Yolanda Thomas, the team’s success can be attributed to a combination of continuity and a strong chip on their collective shoulder.

 

“The players are committed, competitive and on a mission to win,” Thomas said.  “Having a good amount of returners from last year allowed us to develop team chemistry pretty quickly as well, and many of us felt like we had something to prove after a less successful season last year.”

 

Fortuna proved to be not only more than a force to be reckoned with but also a legitimate championship contender.

 

Offensively the team has been carried by their dangerous duo of Shiloh Price and Taylor Malham. Price recently finished her career at the University of Oklahoma, where she featured as one of the team’s strongest midfielders. During her senior year, Price scored two game-winning goals for the team in high-level Big-12 Conference play.

 

Malham has been an absolute sensation for the University of Arkansas. Preparing to enter her junior year with the team, Malham has started every single game of her career while tallying 12 goals in two seasons.

 

With Fortuna Tulsa, both players have been spectacular. The two lead the team with four goals each and are first and second on the team with assists. Thomas praised both, specifically citing Price’s leadership ability.

 

“Shiloh is not only a great player but a great teammate and leader,” Thomas said. “She has made an immediate impact on both sides of the ball and can play multiple positions. Her composure in front of goal in high pressure situations has also proven valuable.”

 

In Malham, Thomas believes that Tulsa has one of the most dominant athletes in the WPSL. Her scoring ability and positional flexibility has translated seamlessly from SEC play into the WPSL.

 

“Taylor is such a gift to this team, her work ethic and fitness level is second to none,” Thomas said. “She can also play in many different positions and creates goal-scoring opportunities no matter where she plays. She’s tough to deal with for defenders — her mere athleticism is tiring for others — and she opens up play for her teammates so well.”

 

With regular season play behind it, Tulsa turns its attention to the postseason. After completing an undefeated regular season, the team is hoping to prove themselves as a member of the WPSL elite.

 

“Now that we enter the post season, our goals haven’t really changed,” Thomas said. “We will continue to put our best foot forward, play with passion and heart, represent the city of Tulsa well and hope we continue to walk away with wins.”

 

Regardless of what transpires in the postseason, there is no doubting that Fortuna Tulsa has represented the city with heart and class.