By: Harry Loomis
College sports are a funny thing. With student athletes having four years of eligibility, it is not uncommon for teams to go from struggling one year to contending for a conference championship the next.
Unfortunately for Missouri Western’s girls soccer, they experienced the exact opposite this season.
Things just didn’t go right for the Griffons in 2019. The team had their moments, sure, but they just couldn’t get the results they were looking for on a consistent basis. When conference play began, things fell apart for them. One year removed from a 7-4 conference record and a defeat in the opening round of the conference championship, the Griffons stumbled to a 4-11-3 record, going 1-8-3 in MIAA conference play and missing the playoffs.
The Griffons got off to a slow start, which wasn’t overly concerning given the youth on the team. They went 0-2-1 in their first three games, not scoring a goal until their fourth game when Ashley Mathis connected twice in a 2-1 victory against Sioux Falls. That win started a three-game winning streak, a streak that saw goalkeeper Anna Mayer lead Missouri Western to two consecutive shutouts against Missouri Southern and Northwest Missouri. They ended pre conference play with a valiant 1-0 loss at a powerhouse in Central Missouri. With a record of 3-3-1, the Griffons looked to improve on a good, but not great start. This is the part of the season where things started to go wrong for the Griffons.
Missouri Western started conference play with two rough outings in a row, falling 4-1 at Missouri Southern, a team they had beaten 1-0 at Spratt just the weekend before, and then 5-1 at the hands of Emporia State. The Griffons wouldn’t let the season get out of hand, however. They turned around and put together a gutsy effort at Washburn two days later and took a 2-1 overtime victory on MacKenzie O’Neill’s game winner, her first at the collegiate level.
Try as they might, the Griffons just couldn’t build off the momentum from that victory. They were outplaying Fort Hays the next game at home, but the Tigers first two shots found their way through, and the Griffons couldn’t recover, ultimately falling 3-0. The next four games were where the Griffons were really close to turning their season around, but it just didn’t work out for them. A scoreless tie with Nebraska-Kearney, where both teams totaled over 20 shots for the game was followed by a 2-1 loss to Northeastern State, a 2-1 overtime loss against Rogers State and a 1-1 tie to Newman where the Griffons were outshot 22-7.
After a 3-1 loss to Central Oklahoma and a 4-3 defeat to rival Northwest Missouri, the Griffons were done, officially eliminated from the postseason, but they still had one game left against Central Missouri. It was a tough task, but the Griffons had just one thing to play for: pride. They didn’t win the game, in fact, according to the box score, Central Missouri dominated them. However, after going down 2-0 early, the Griffons kept fighting, and a late first half goal by Taylor Schwartzkopf set up a second half that exemplified what head coach Chad Edwards wants out of his team. They left everything out of the field.
Even after the Jennies made it 3-1 early in the second, the Griffons kept fighting, getting a goal back on a 30 yard strike by MaKenzie Billings. Though they lost 3-2, the team ended with a performance they can look back on and be proud of.
Edwards was proud of how his team came out that final half, and wishes that performance would’ve been seen more during the season.
“If we could’ve consistently played like that through the course of the season, we possibly got more results,” Edwards said. “It’s just one of those years that you reflect back on and have a lot of questions as far as how we couldn’t get results.”
The team’s scoring was fairly even, as there were a lot of players that recorded goals and assists, though not one player broke out and led the team. Schwartzkopf and Kaili Campbell led the team with three goals each while O’Neill led the team in assists with three and points with seven. Mayer went 4-9-3 with 122 saves on the season.
Despite the tough season, there is hope for Griffon soccer, as with no seniors on the roster, everyone should be back next year. The team will have another year to grow together as a team and individually, and it is going to be expected to come out strong next year and be right back where they belong: fighting for an MIAA championship.
Edwards says he is excited to get ready for the next year, to see who all steps up as leaders of the team.
“I’m really looking forward to the spring,” Edwards said. “They’re going to be hungry, and wanting to win.”