Northwest soccer continued its winless streak last week with two more losses, coming against Lindenwood Sept. 21 and Central Missouri Sept. 23. The games pushed the loss streak to six-consecutive games for the Bearcats, who haven’t won since their season-opening victory over William Jewell Aug. 30.
Beginning conference play, the Bearcats (1-6, 0-1 MIAA) find themselves in the midst of a drawn-out slump. The record and piling losses don’t tell the whole story for Northwest.
In the matchup against Lindenwood (4-3-1, 1-0 MIAA), coach Marc Gordon entered with cautious optimism. Despite playing some of their best soccer of the season, the Bearcats fell to the Lions 2-0.
“Lindenwood was disappointing,” Gordon said. “(We had) a lot of good possession. Our shot selection: sometimes I feel like we settle for a 30-yard shot when I feel like we can get within 18 (yards). Just being able to cash in on successes: it’s not happening.”
The Bearcats weathered the loss and entered their matchup against the reigning-NCAA Division II Champion Jennies (7-1, 1-0 MIAA) armed again with high hopes. The game was the first official MIAA match for Northwest under Gordon, and at least for a while, the team held its own.
After 45 minutes of soccer, the score sat tied 1-1. After Northwest fell down 1-0 in the game, freshman forward Joanna Shaw netted the tying goal on an assist from junior forward Emily Madden.
Despite the noble effort in the first half, the Bearcats allowed three unanswered goals in the second half, falling to the Jennies 4-1.
“We had some really good (ball) possession against UCM,” Gordon said. “I felt like (Central) had a really hard time, in the first half, breaking us down. Even when we gave up the goals in the second, I felt like we had some longer segments (of possession).”
In spite of what the record may suggest, Northwest’s play has been on the uptick. Shaw said that the team is nearing a breakthrough, something that was evident over the weekend against Lindenwood and Central.
“We have made some really big improvements,” Shaw said. “Overall, the results aren’t there yet, but we’ve made some huge strides in becoming a better team.”
Increased ball possession has been a highlighted facet of play under Gordon, one that the team believes will show up in the win column at some point. The coach sees the progress being made on the field and in the film room, even if it can’t be measured on a stat sheet.
“I feel like they’re believing what they’re capable of,” Gordon said of his players. “It’s just now the longevity of what we’re trying to accomplish to get it done.”
Looking forward, the Bearcats will continue their trek into MIAA play, facing off against Washburn Sept. 28 and Emporia State Sept. 30. The weekend will provide another gutcheck for the young Bearcats.
“I think Washburn is kind of a gritty, rugged team,” Gordon said. “They’re going to bring a lot of pressure. I know coach (Davy Phillips) from past coaching experiences: they’ll be prepared, they’re organized. We have to match that veracity of who they are to be successful.”
Northwest will aim to carry and maintain drive throughout each game. Allowing numerous goals in the second half has developed into a common theme for the Bearcats, one they hope to thwart.
“I’d say our goal is to definitely keep our energy level up the entire game,” Shaw said. “Every game we play, we always hang in there the first half, and then kind of let go the second half.”
As Northwest continues to search for its foothold, one key could come in the form of finding the right combination of players. In some ways, the starting lineup has been a revolving door for the Bearcats, as they search for a coalition of women that will produce.
“There will be some changing of players this week,” Gordon said. “We’re still not getting results, so we’re still trying to move the chess pieces to have success.”