Northwest soccer found its first road win of the season Sept. 27, earning a 3-1 win over Missouri Southern propelled by freshman Teagan Blackburn's hat trick.
Blackburn is one of the young freshman talents the Bearcats have seen make an impact this season for them. Other freshman players such as forward Kaitlyn Case and midfielder Kaylie Rock have also been key contributors for the ‘Cats.
That trio has gotten extensive minutes and starts for the Bearcats and combined for seven goals, which has played a crucial part in putting Northwest at sixth in the MIAA in goals this season with a total of 14. The sixth-place setting is very much improved as opposed to finishing 12th, where the Bearcats ended a season ago.
Blackburn's effort against the Lions was something that was bound to happen at any given moment, junior center back Madi McKeever said.
“In non-conference play, she kept finding herself in opportunities but couldn’t capitalize,” McKeever said. “At MoSo, (Blackburn) found a way to score, and it’s given her different confidence, and I think it's going to continue to grow throughout the season.”
The three goals Blackburn netted in the game came rather late in the first half of the match. One goal came in the 43rd minute, being the equalizer to a game that went into the half tied at one goal apiece.The second one came just minutes after from an assist from senior midfielder Izzy Romano in the 48th minute.
As the game went on, Blackburn was able to increase the Bearcats lead with another goal, and her final goal in the 71st minute with another assist, this time from junior forward Alex Mausbach. The ‘Cats have had quite a bit of success scoring this season when they pass the ball well. So far, 12 of the 14 goals scored from Northwest have been via an assist.
The late assisted goal from Northwest was able to help secure the win over the Lions marking its first road win since Oct. 14, 2018.
“We have a lot of players out of position this season, and I think for the most part we've done a great job at adjusting,” coach Marc Gordon said. “We have players who are starting to step up and make those plays that help us win games.”
McKeever is aplayer Gordon pointed out as one of the team leaders,able to step up. She has taken the role as center back this season, but was recruited to Northwest as a defensive holding player.
McKeever said she's embraced the position change and she is willing to do whatever it takes for her team to win.
“As a team, we have more grit this year and we are finding more ways to score this season,” McKeever said. “I think it’s the desire to want to finish that goal and be able to compete.”
McKeever came into this season questionable after tearing her ACL in the middle of October last season. Gordon said she's done a great job of coming back stronger this season and believes she’s taken one of the biggest steps on the team.
“She’s done a phenomenal job of providing guidance to the rest of the team on the field this season,” Gordon said. “Her decision and mindset and the work she’s done have been far from what we expected from her at this point in the season.”
McKeever has put in the most minutes out of anyone on the Bearcats this season and has been an anchor for the Bearcats defensively, Gordon said.
Northwest traveled to Warrensburg Sept. 29 to take on the No. 7 Central Missouri Jennies in another road game for the Bearcats. Northwest again struggled to slow down the attack for the Jennies as the Bearcats gave up four goals in a losing effort.
Central Missouri was able to score in the second minute of the game and kept a steady attack throughout, scoring one more time before the half and two times in the second half. The Bearcats were shutout for the second time this season, losing 4-0. Gordon said the weekend was an overall success for his team and liked his team’s aggressiveness despite a loss.
Despite a losing effort to a top 10 program in the country, the win against Missouri Southern, coupled with Blackburn’s efforts, provided a glimpse of what could be coming in the future for Northwest soccer.
“It felt great to be able to finally score this season,” Blackburn said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities to score this season but I didn’t. My team helped me stay confident and told me to stay ready, so it was nice to be able to do what I did.”