The start of the season for Northwest soccer has been an uneven journey. A trek that began with cautious optimism and a perhaps misleading win over William Jewell has taken a turn.
After a weekend that included ugly losses to conference rivals Central Missouri and Missouri Western in non-conference matchups, the Bearcats (1-4) find themselves in the midst of their first slump under first-year coach Marc Gordon.
Northwest started its weekend Sept. 4 with a 4-1 loss to Central (6-0) in Warrensburg. The Jennies, who were the 2017 NCAA Division II Champions, extended their winning streak to 31 consecutive games.
“Where UCM is and where we are, was a true reflection of the game,” Gordon said, reflecting on Northwest’s loss to Central. “That’s just where we’re at right now, we’re in a building process.”
Despite the score, Gordon was overall optimistic following the Central game, and the Bearcats had confidence heading into the matchup with Western (4-2). In any case, the Griffons defeated Northwest rather swiftly.
“I can’t say there’s any reason that we performed as we did today,” Gordon said in the aftermath of a 4-0 loss to Western Sept. 16. “It just fell apart.”
The losses piling up portray the growing pains of a rebuilding year, and were expected by most at the onset of the season. Still, Gordon takes each loss personally as they come, and with each one, full responsibility.
In an instance where many coaches would cower behind talking points and throw blame at past regimes, Gordon stands pat, weathering the losses as they come, sporting the scars of a rebuild.
“The whole ‘young program, new guy’ stuff; I’ve got to do better to get my team more ready,” Gordon said. “I can’t buy that. There’s still some maturity and talent within this team that was here prior to me getting here. (There’s) no reason for me to try and say that we’re super young when we do have a number of girls that put in some pretty heavy minutes a year ago. I’ve got to figure out what our formula is to success.”
As the season truds along, the Bearcats take with each loss an opportunity for growth. Northwest continues to scour films after games, hoping to identify problems and craft solutions.
“We start to go back to old habits, is what, after conversation with the team, we identified as we watch film,” Gordon said. “Early in the game, they were like ‘This is who we are now; this is who we need to be.’”
Despite the record, the players seem to have bought into Gordon’s attempted culture change. Sophomore defender Madi McKeever senses that the Bearcats are on the verge of a breakout under Gordon.
“(Gordon) came in, and right away from the start you could tell he wanted us to win,” McKeever said. “He can tell he cares about us and that everyone is starting to buy in to what he’s saying. He believes in us.”
With belief still intact, Gordon and company will attempt to right the ship Sept. 21 against Lindenwood.