Northwest soccer is heading into its Sept. 7 match against Truman State with a feeling of cautious optimism. The Bearcats (1-1) were served their first taste of adversity this weekend in
the form of a 2-1 loss to Rockhurst.
Coach Marc Gordon and the Bearcats started their season, and Gordon’s tenure at Northwest, off on a positive note with a gutsy 2-1 win over William Jewell at Bearcat Pitch Aug. 30.
The Northwest win highlighted a perception of resiliency. After the Bearcats fell behind 1-0, they scored two unanswered goals to push past the Cardinals.
“What a fun Thursday,” Gordon said, in reference to the team’s win over William Jewell. “I felt excited. I was a little unnerved, but I thought the women came through in the program's first win under me, being new to the program, so I was thankful.”
The game provided Gordon and the players a moment to celebrate while simultaneously looking forward to the remainder of the season.
“It was awesome,” junior forward Emily Madden said. “It felt like a new team. We are playing for each other. I’m excited to see where this season goes.”
After the pomp and circumstance of the team’s first win under Gordon subsided, reality took hold, and the Bearcats were quickly forced to look forward. Northwest moved on to Rockhurst, and the result inspired a mixed reaction.
“It was pretty uninspiring soccer,” Gordon said. “We had a lot of (ball) possession, but didn’t really do much. Most of the first half was played in the middle part of the field. There were a couple of opportunities, but nothing real dangerous.”
The Bearcats and Hawklets played most of the game caught in a stalemate. The first goal of the match didn’t come until there was just over 15 minutes left to play. Rockhurst broke the tie and added another goal in quick succession, leaving Northwest down 2-0.
Down 2-0 with only 10 minutes left to play, many would expect a young team like the Bearcats to mentally checkout. Despite slim odds, Northwest refused to yield. On an assist from Madden, Maryville native Mollie Holtman scored with just 39 seconds left to play.
“We surged back,” Gordon said. “With about 30 seconds left we scored. The theme right now I’m seeing is, if we do go down, we respond quickly.”
The goal was, for the most part, inconsequential. Yet, it punctuated a show of poise for the Bearcats. The goal itself may have been meaningless, but in some ways, it represented the changing of a culture.
“We never gave up,” Madden said. “We didn’t hang our heads. I think that’s something that’s totally different this year. We would get a little frustrated last year and not respond very well, but I thought we responded very well (this week). I think that’s a big change this year; we didn’t give up.”
In all, the Bearcats have come away with a developing identity. The team is still figuring out exactly how their pieces fit together.
“With the team itself, we’re starting to find a rhythm,” Gordon said. “We’re finding the right combination of players with who to start and when we should sub in. It’s about creating success and building on that.”
Looking forward, the Bearcats are hoping to learn more about themselves in the coming games. The next opportunity for growth will come against Truman.
“Just keep pushing this boat down the river, so to speak,” Gordon said. “We’ll take out of Truman what we can get, and hopefully apply the things we need to fix.”