Northwest soccer has played its last exhibition game on the schedule, which means the regular season is right around the corner.
To prepare for the 2021 season, the Bearcats played two preseason scrimmages against the Truman State Bulldogs Aug. 21 and Augustana Vikings Aug. 27. While results and statistics for both contests are unofficial, both ended in a draw. The first one ending 1-1 and the last one 3-3.
The most recent scrimmage against the Vikings provided Northwest soccer players and coaches with one last opportunity to gauge the squad before the beginning of the regular season.
For senior midfielder Jessie Brown, that game served as a point of motivation for herself, and she is proud of what she was able to accomplish against Augustana at the Bearcat Pitch.
“Scoring three goals in one game hasn’t happened often for us in the last couple of seasons, so I’m excited that we’re having high-scoring games early on,” Brown said. “I’m hoping that the trend continues.”
Brown believes Friday brought a couple of things to the forefront of what needs improvement, and she is interested to see how the team responds to those issues.
She said the team needs to work on getting a better first touch and defending closer to the player with the ball.
Coach Marc Gordon said the team started off a bit slow, mostly due to the fact that the ’Cats couldn’t find a good rhythm out of the gates. But as the game went along, they eventually found their footing.
Whenever there’s a chance to address tempo in practice, Gordon said, they do activities that force the players to be in smaller spaces to work on ball control.
In game, however, it is a different story. Gordon said during the game, he tells the players if they’re holding the ball too long or if they need to be more accurate on offense and, defensively, if they need to increase the pressure.
“That’s the thing with our game, there’s no timeout,” Gordon said. “So we have to address it during the run of play.”
Senior goalkeeper Alexis Serna Castillo also said the team was having trouble finding a solid pace. However, she said when the second half started, a change came upon the Bearcats and they were able to fix the earlier mistakes.
“We were all fired up and playing how we should,” Castillo said.
Castillo said, collectively, the team needs to improve its passing. Similar to Brown, she said they need to put more pressure on the other team.
“Those are our weaknesses that I personally see, and with our captains telling that to our coach, we have already begun to do longer practice sessions on it,” Castillo said.
Both scrimmages are over and in the past, and now the Bearcats will be set to play in the first regular season game during the fall since 2019. The first game will feature them against the Sioux Falls Cougars Sept. 3 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Bearcats hold a four-game winning streak against the Cougars, with the most recent game being a 4-0 win during the 2019 season. The Northwest soccer program has never taken a loss to the Cougars.
Castillo, who played against Sioux Falls in 2019, said she’s confident in the team’s ability to return to Maryville 1-0.
The 2021 spring season was the first time Brown and Castillo experienced a season above .500 in their time as Bearcats.
Brown said the season may have been shortened, but that doesn’t make her any less proud of her team. She said the goal is to do it again, and then go further, with the sights set on competing for the MIAA title.
“It’s executing that’s going to make or break our season,” Brown said. “That’s something that we’ve discussed a lot, both at the end of last semester’s season and preseason for this year.”
Gordon said he believes the team is ready, and now it’s about putting everything they’ve practiced onto the field when it comes time to compete.
“You play hard, you work hard, but now there’s more on the line,” Gordon said. “All the games have significance to them now.”