There the Bearcats were, with possession of the ball and 20 seconds left in regulation of a 1-1 tie with Missouri Western Sept. 19 at the Bearcat Pitch.
They had just lost their previous soccer match two days prior and were on the verge of going into overtime with the then-No. 13 Griffons.
However, Northwest forwards sophomore Teagan Blackburn and redshirt freshman Sophie Cissell had other ideas.
As the clock continued to tick down to zero, Cissell made what the Bearcats hoped was the final pass of the game.
Blackburn received the pass and stood within touching distance of the goal. Nothing was between her and the game-winning goal, except for one obstacle — Griffons junior goalkeeper Anna Mayer. However, when Mayer attempted to dive for the ball, she came up empty-handed, which gave Blackburn an open shot.
“I watched her go by the keeper, and after she shot it, I was just watching the goal,” Northwest coach Marc Gordon said. “From our angle, ‘Is it going to go wide or is it going to hit the net?’ Then, I saw the result.”
Gordon witnessed the ball hitting the back of the net with seven seconds remaining, giving the Bearcats a 2-1 upset over the Griffons.
Gordon said he was very excited and that it was a well-earned goal by Blackburn. He said she was frustrated from her play in the first half from her first two missed shots, and they were attempting to get the ball to her so she might be able to channel that frustration into positive results.
“It was just good to see her strike the ball,” Gordon said. “It was pure, it was firm and she put it away for us.”
Up to that point, the Bearcats (3-3) and Griffons (3-1-2) were stuck going back and forth, with both teams not getting much of anywhere. This can be proven by the similarity in both teams’ statistics at the end of the game, which included 14 shots for Northwest and 13 shots for Western. Additionally, each team recorded five saves.
Northwest managed to score the first goal, courtesy of freshman forward Adell Gore, who was in her first weekend of playing against MIAA opponents.
“It was super exciting to get my first collegiate goal, especially since it went towards a close 2-1 win,” Gore said.
The score remained 1-0 with the Bearcats in front until eight minutes into the second half, when Western freshman Carly Zabloudil got her first collegiate goal.
After the score evened out at 1, the Bearcats were stuck in a stalemate with the Griffons for the better part of 37 minutes.
Gordon said he was prepared to go into overtime.
“I was mentally trying to figure out which direction we wanted, depending on the coin toss, what side we were going to be on and what our lineup would look like, comparatively,” Gordon said.
Following the game, Western dropped out of the Division II Top 25. Additionally, this game put the Bearcats at 1-2 against ranked teams.
One of their losses was to No. 3 Grand Valley State, and the second was the team they played two days before the Griffons: No. 7 Central Missouri.
The Bearcats walked onto Jennies Field for the second time this season, and from there, it was like a repeat of the first time, when they played Grand Valley State. The Jennies (5-1), similar to the Lakers, scored two first-half goals on the Bearcats and never looked back.
However, the Lakers did not score until the 32nd minute of the match, whereas it took two minutes for the Jennies to put a point on the board.
Sophomore forward Kaylie Rock said the team was not mentally ready to deal with a situation that included Central scoring so quickly.
“UCM is a very good opponent and has some really talented players, but I think there was more we could've brought to the table against them, and it just didn't happen this time,” Rock said.
Against Central, the Bearcats were shutout for the second time this season by way of a 3-0 score.
Gordon said the team just came out flat and was never able to find a rhythm after the Jennies’ first goal. He said they then scored the second and that it’s really hard to recover from that against a quality team.
The response from the players after Sunday’s game, Gordon said, was a great testament to their toughness and grit. He said he has mixed feelings from the weekend, but Sunday showed him that the players are capable of rebounding after adversity.
“I feel confident in what we’re able to do,” Gordon said. “Now, it’s just finding consistency with the players and making sure we, as a coaching staff, are pushing the right buttons for them to produce.”
The Bearcats won’t have to wait long to have another shot at the Jennies, though, and will match up with them Sept. 26 at Bearcat Pitch, just nine days after the first match. It’ll mark the first official conference match of the season.
Rock said they will definitely be more prepared this time around.
“We now have a better idea of what their style of play is going to look like and what we need to do to better compete against them,” Rock said.
Before then, Northwest will play against Missouri Southern (1-3-2) Sept. 24.
Gordon said they are going to be a gritty group, and the team has to be mentally prepared for the Lions’ drive. He said the Lions have been playing hard but just haven’t quite got the results they wanted, and their numbers compared to the Bearcats are very similar.
“I’m not going to look past them,” Gordon said. “So, hopefully, we have time to view their film, see what they’re doing and try to control the chaos.”