Northwest soccer suffered another setback over the weekend, taking a pair of hard-fought losses.
The Bearcats dropped two home matches, one to Central Oklahoma 3-0 Oct. 19, and the other by a score of 2-1 to Northeastern State Oct. 21. The setback was the latest in a series of mostly disappointing outings for the Bearcats.
On the heels of its second win of the season, coming over Southwest Baptist Oct. 14, Northwest (2-13, 1-8 MIAA) was forced to face off against Central Oklahoma (16-0, 9-0 MIAA), the No. 1 team in the MIAA. Despite a strong effort in the game from the Bearcats, they eventually did what every team has done when playing UCO this season; they fell to the Bronchos.
“I know the result on Friday showed a 3-0 loss, but the game was not that,” coach Marc Gordon said. “I’m not displeased with our play. I thought we did well to manage what they had. All in all, the way we played was good for where we’re at in the season, just not able to get the result.”
The results and statistics did not tell the whole story in the matchup. For Northwest, this has developed into a common theme. Week after week, the Bearcats seem to inch toward a breakthrough, only to fall short as the final buzzer sounds on each game.
“When we played UCO, a lot of the people I went to school with talked about how we were going to get beat 9-0, and no one on the team really thought that,” freshman defender Tanith Beal said. “We never gave up.”
Beal, a native of Shawnee, Kansas, did not follow a traditional path to suiting up for Northwest. She graduated from De Soto High School in 2017, attending Kansas State University for a year while participating in club soccer.
“I went to a smaller high school, so I knew everyone and everyone knew me,” Beal said. “On the soccer team, it was just a big family. I thought I wanted to go to a place with more people; a bigger atmosphere.”
Beal’s presence on the team is an early and glaring example of the positive effects brought by Gordon. The freshman sought more competitiveness and a new environment after her year at Kansas State, and Gordon’s arrival at Northwest, along with family ties to the school, helped draw her to the program.
“Once I went to K-State, I realized I really missed that family aspect,” Beal said. “The club soccer was fun but it wasn’t up to the competitive level I needed. Coach Gordon contacted me for his previous school (Ottawa University), and I noticed he was coming here, so I came and visited.”
In all, Northwest’s season has not gone according to plan. At the onset of the season, Gordon said he was hoping to win 10 games. With just two more games on the schedule, the Bearcats will fail to reach half of that.
After starting the season with a undaunted 2-1 victory over William Jewell, Northwest slumped to the tune of an 11-game losing streak. This is the nature of a rebuild, one that has at times left Gordon disappointed and perplexed, but has ultimately left him hopeful.
“After (William Jewell), if you would have said we would only win one more game up to this point...I wouldn’t believe it,” Gordon said. “We set some high expectations, I think attainable, but some high expectations.”
On the surface, the piling losses could be viewed as a restriction of growth for a young Northwest team. In reality, the opposite is true. In what has been a rebuilding season, the Bearcats’ development reaches far beyond the record book or win column, and can only truly be measured in the coming years.
The changing of a culture cannot take place overnight, or over the course of just one season. The Bearcats are building for a better tomorrow, although hope for today isn’t lost.
“It would be very easy for a group to check out with the challenges we’ve had this season, but they have not,” Gordon said of his players. “They continue to push each other. I know that they feel that they’re better than their record shows, but it is what it is. In all my years of coaching and as a player, I’ve had some bad seasons, but there are some things that have happened to us this year that have never happened (to me).”
As the sun sets on the season for Northwest, the attention will turn to the future. There will be no postseason for the team: an offseason full of training and recruiting will follow its season finale Oct. 28 versus Lindenwood.
After next week for the Bearcats, there is no next week, only next season and beyond.
“It’s been a long time since I haven't been busy in November with a team,” Gordon said. “It’s going to really help me reflect on the things that we need to start preparing for in the winter. In order for us to achieve what I believe can be done here, we have to train. I believe it’s going to get harder. It gets harder now for everybody that’s going to be involved in the program.”