Coming into its first MIAA tournament since 2012, Northwest soccer was ready to prove it was capable of contending for a conference championship. After a regular season plagued with hot-and-cold performances, the Bearcats final one came in their first, and only, round of the tournament.
Northwest (6-10-3) got out to an early 2-0 lead over Emporia State (13-4-2) Nov. 8, but the momentum quickly dissipated. Two goals from juniors Alex Mausbach and Taylor Wolfe gave the Bearcats the two-goal lead at the break. Much like the rest of the season, Gordon said, missed opportunities would hurt the Bearcats.
Allowing the Hornets to take the game to overtime and score the eventual game-winning goal served as a moment that reflected a situation the Bearcats found themselves in throughout the season.
“The team went out, performed very well, had some early goals, but we had other opportunities and just didn’t put them away,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t about great saves; it was about misplacement and mishit balls by us in situations we haven’t put ourselves in.”
The team had more of an internal approach coming into its rematch instead of an adjustment based on their previous result against the Hornets, a 4-0 loss Oct. 6. The team, Gordon said, carried the mindset of trying to prove that they are capable of competing with stronger teams. Assistant coach Quaid Curtin said they went out and gave that mentality.
“It was that mentality that these girls know they can compete so they went out on the field and said, ‘Why not us?’” Curtin said.
The Bearcats were close, knocking at the door of the second round of the tournament, but close doesn’t win. It never has, and that didn’t change against Emporia. Their hopes of a tournament run were thwarted and seniors were left heartbroken as their first tournament appearance was over as quickly as it began.
“It was overtime; whoever scores first, that’s it,” Gordon said. “It was heartbreaking for the seniors because of their commitment. Seeing their commitment and their payoff to get into the postseason, it was disappointing. They were deserving to get that win, but Emporia was as well.”
The game was close enough that it struck uncertainty into Curtin, the coach who’s typically the calmer of the two.
“On the sidelines, normally I sit and I’m rather calm, but I was just pacing back and forth. I was nervous,” Curtain said. “I was definitely disappointed because our girls deserved that win.”
Despite losing in the first round, Northwest soccer, Gordon believes, has started a culture for the years to come. The players and coaches believe that clinching a berth to the MIAA tournament will become the new expectation for the program.
“Getting into the tournament now, it’s going to be a norm for us,” Curtin said. “That’s what the seniors that are leaving are telling the younger girls; that’s what the younger girls are believing.”
The ’Cats are no longer in play and the coaching staff is now looking forward to preparing the 2020 recruiting class. With this building block, the coaches can now address new levels of coaching that they couldn’t before. The team has achieved the goal of returning to the MIAA stage, but Gordon has mixed emotions of this season and does not want them to be satisfied with where they ended the year.
“I don’t want to over-celebrate the moments of what was done,” Gordon said. “The MIAA is an extremely difficult conference to play in. I’m excited that we made a huge jump from last year, but still, there’s a long way to go.”