Northwest soccer heads into its Sept. 14 match against Central Missouri on the heels of its largest rest period of the young season.
The Bearcats (1-2) will face off against the reigning MIAA and NCAA Division II champion Jennies with fresh legs, armed with more knowledge about themselves than they’ve possessed at any point this season.
Coach Marc Gordon and company are marching through a learning curve. The Bearcats have spent the first few weeks of the season figuring out how their roster fits together on the field, a baptism by fire of sorts.
Gordon is hopeful that the curve is near its completion, as the Bearcats will play rival Central Missouri twice in a 10-day stretch. The Jennies (4-0) are riding a 29-game win streak, dating back to last season.
“We have to play under more pressure in training,” Gordon said. “This week obviously is a huge challenge. UCM (is the) current national champion, they’re off to a very good start again this year. They graduated a ton of players, but obviously are prepared and have a solid group again.”
The young Bearcats are taking the challenge in stride. Gordon made it clear that the matchup against Central isn’t just another game, but an opportunity to put the MIAA on notice.
“They are a circled team for everybody,” Gordon said. “Everybody wants to be the team to knock them off--that’s our message this week. We’re looking for the opportunity to do something that no one’s done.”
Unlike the Jennies, Northwest’s start to the season has been less than ideal. The Bearcats suffered their second loss of the season Sept. 7 against Truman State, by a score of 2-1.
Gordon attributed the loss to a brief mental lapse that allowed the Bulldogs to score two goals in quick succession. The mental blunders have developed into a recurring affair for Northwest, dooming the Bearcats in both losses so far. Gordon is confident that through training and experience, the hiccups will subside.
“(Truman) exposed our youthfulness at times,” Gordon said. “The simplicity of the adjustments that need to happen to prevent those (mental lapses) are miniscule. Hopefully we can apply what we’ve talked about and what we’re working on to better ready us these next games.”
While the record doesn’t necessarily reflect a vast improvement, those within the program sense an upswing looming. Junior Kayla Ellis is optimistic that the Bearcats are in the midst of refinement.
“We had possession (against Truman), we just couldn’t finish the final third,” Ellis said. “That was our struggle, finding that final pass. Keeping up that intensity after a goal is scored (on us) in order to get a goal back is what we’re working on. We’ve got to keep our heads up.”
With just three games under his belt as a coach in the MIAA, Gordon seems to be all in. In the first season of his tenure, one that figures to be a rebuilding year, the coach is ready to win.
“I’m disappointed,” Gordon said. “I take it a little personal. I feel like I need to do better for the girls, I need to get them more prepared. I know I can’t fix it all in a week or two weeks, it’s a growing process, but I do want to try and move this program forward a little bit quicker, so we can see some results this season.”