Northwest soccer began a road trip last weekend in the midst of a brutal slump.
As the Bearcats set off for their match against Missouri Southern Oct. 12, they departed Maryville battered, yet optimistic, wearing the effects of a 10-game loss streak.
In Joplin, the consecutive loss streak grew to 11. Entering a matchup with Southwest Baptist Oct. 14, Northwest needed a breakthrough. After 11-consecutive fruitless outings, a stretch where the Bearcats scored just three goals, they did what they hadn’t done since Aug. 30; they celebrated a win.
Northwest (2-11, 1-6 MIAA) defeated Southwest Baptist (0-12-2, 0-6-1 MIAA) 3-2 in Bolivar, marking the team’s first win since a season-opening triumph over William Jewell. The win served as a sigh of relief for the Bearcats, one they were inching toward for weeks.
“To see the team compete at such a great level was refreshing,” first-year coach Marc Gordon said. “It was just nice to see the group get a win. We have such a good group of players; everybody’s working hard, no one has given up.”
Junior Emily Madden served as the hero for the Bearcats, scoring all three goals in the win over Southwest Baptist, recording her first career hat trick and just the seventh in the history of the program. The three goals Madden scored leave her tied for most in a game in Northwest history.
“It’s cool,” Madden said of her hat trick and Northwest’s win. “After I scored, I turned around … everyone was just super pumped. It finally gave us that assurance that we can do something this year, we’re a good enough team, we can get some wins under our belt.”
Madden has been one of the most consistent players for Northwest throughout the season, logging much of her time as a midfielder. Gordon moved her to forward to start the game versus Southwest, ultimately creating the spark his team needed.
After the loss to Southern (7-5-2, 3-3-1 MIAA), the 11th in a row for Northwest, Gordon pondered personnel and position changes that could provide a lift. The coach has tinkered with the lineup throughout the season searching for the right player to provoke an offensive outburst.
“To move her to forward; that was huge,” Gordon said. “It changed our attack. The team rallied around what Emily was doing. She brings such a good energy. She has no idea how good she is.”
For Northwest, the celebration of a breakthrough must be brief. The team’s next matchup will come against the undefeated Bronchos of Central Oklahoma. The Bronchos, who have cruised to 14 wins this season, will test Northwest’s ability to carry its momentum.
“(The Bronchos) have such a hot, dynamic team right now,” Gordon said. “They move the ball, they’re athletic; they just beat you on the wings. They’re in the drivers seat for themselves, but we’re playing to win. We would love to be that team that gives them their first loss.”
The Bearcats will have a chance to do so Oct. 18 at Bearcat Pitch. As a team limping through a rebuilding year, a Northwest win over the Bronchos would be nothing short of incredible. The Bearcats are aiming for the victory, one that would serve as a silver lining in what has been a lost season.
“I’m hoping the team can carry this energy into that game,” Madden said. “I want to break their winning streak.”