In its recent string of hot-and-cold games, Northwest soccer picked up a thrilling win against Washburn Oct. 4, followed by another loss, the latest coming to Emporia State Oct. 6.
The Bearcats have struggled to find their identity this season in the MIAA as they’ve split a weekend series three times this year. Northwest found itself in the win column back in the second weekend of the season with a win over Sioux Falls Sept. 13. They would go on to drop their match against Augustana later in the weekend Sept. 15.
The trend continued as the Bearcats found a way to upend the Missouri Southern Lions 3-1 in the fourth weekend of the season Sept. 27, which was fueled by freshman midfielder Tegan Blackburn’s hat trick. The win was followed by a matchup against then No. 7 Central Missouri where the Bearcats were controlled from start, all the way to the end, losing 4-0.
Northwest would again follow that trend into its recent weekend stint starting Oct 4. by defeating Washburn 1-0 in overtime. But the ’Cats would not be able to get anything going against Emporia State in a 4-0 loss.
Despite the Bearcats’ Sunday struggles this season, coach Marc Gordon said his team is on the rise and credits it to the trust his players have been able to build with each other.
“I like our growth, our maturity, our tactical awareness and our willingness to try things,” Gordon said “We do get exposed a little bit as we try and run some new things in the game, but that's where the trust in the team and in themselves comes into play, and it’s made us a much stronger team throughout the season.”
Gordon and his players have shown that they have become a much-improved team this season as opposed to last, with considerably more goals scored to this point in the season (15). They have moved to 3-6-1 this season, which is nothing to boast about but is an improvement from last season’s underwhelming 2-15 record.
Junior center midfielder Bri Wawiorka was just one of the six Bearcats that logged all 97 minutes in the overtime victory over Washburn. Wawiorka said she likes the direction her team is going and knows the team is in a much better position to succeed now compared to a year ago.
“We have a lot of young players that can come in and they can match our play, they can match our experience in some ways,” Wawiorka said. “The younger players have helped with chemistry. We know we can trust them to do what's best for the team, and that alone makes us better.”
Northwest is tied for eighth in the MIAA but will have a chance to move its way up the standings if the team can piece together wins against its next four opponents. Out of the Bearcats’ next four opponents, three of them hold a winning record and are sitting in the middle of the pack amongst the MIAA standings.
The upcoming four-game home stretch for the Bearcats will be against Nebraska-Kearney, who sits at last in the MIAA, Fort Hays State, Roger State and Northeastern State; the latter three all hold winning records this season.
This home stand for the Northwest is one of the most important stretches of the season in the eyes of Gordon, but he said it shouldn’t change the way his team plays.
“I think every game goes a long way in determining how our postseason chances look,” Gordon said. “They want to succeed and we want to be one of those teams competing for a championship at the end of the season. These next four games will show how much fight we have as a group.”