Northwest soccer enters its first extended road trip of the season in the midst of a gruesome slump. Following another winless weekend, the Bearcats have dropped eight consecutive matches.
A little more than a month ago, the Bearcats (1-8, 0-3 MIAA) started their season off with a 2-1 win over William Jewell Aug. 30. Since then, Northwest has taken a nosedive, struggling to find its footing in the competitive MIAA.
The latest losses came last weekend in the form of a 2-0 loss to Washburn Sept. 28 followed by a 3-0 loss to Emporia State Sept. 30. The loss to Emporia was particularly cutting, as the Bearcats kept the score tied at zero until the 76th minute, ultimately allowing three goals in a 10-minute period to lose the game.
“We played longer not conceding and it was a penalty-kick that got us,” coach Marc Gordon said in reference to the team’s loss to Emporia. “That started the avalanche, so to speak. Again, it’s our decision making and execution … just turning off. Our game doesn’t allow it; you just have to be in it for 90 minutes.”
The game against Emporia punctuated a common theme for Northwest. Allowing a late flurry of goals has become a recurring instance for the young team.
“I think we took away a lot of really good tips for working together on the field,” sophomore defender Kasey Allshouse said. “I think we worked better moving the ball around. Giving up those goals near the end, I think it was a big growing opportunity for us.”
An inconsistent starting lineup has been an obstacle the Bearcats have been forced to curb. Northwest hasn’t fielded the same starting lineup in any of its nine games so far. Injuries have plagued the team while Gordon searches for a lineup that produces success.
“The issue for us, again, I don’t want to go into the injury bug, but that’s been part of it,” Gordon said. “We’ve been just missing people. But with that, we have a lot of young players that are accumulating a lot of minutes that they probably wouldn’t have.”
On paper, Northwest has been overmatched for much of the season. The Bearcats have been outscored 24-5 over their nine games and outshot 156-97. Further, the team seems to fold when it matters most, getting outscored 16-3 in the second period this season.
The progress made will not show up in the win column, though by measures that reach beyond statistics, the Bearcats are nearing a turn of the corner. Northwest is in the middle of a rebuilding year, making the impact of minutes played this season immeasurable in terms of longevity.
“There are players that are filling some roles who weren’t given opportunities before,” Gordon said. “I keep telling myself as the season’s going on that the minutes that some of these younger players are getting, or maybe that they wouldn’t have seen… hopefully, these are some hard-knock lessons that we get to start cashing in on.”
The Bearcats will play as the visitors in their next four matchups with their games for the next two weeks coming on the road. They will continue to toil and bond together, searching for a triumph beyond a moral victory.
“I anticipate individual growth for each of the players,” Gordon said. “We’re riding this current together.”