The first half of the Griffons' season has been a rollercoaster as Western tried to find consistency.
Although they made their way to five wins, the fastest in program history, they are not satisfied with where their record currently stands.
Western sits at 6-4-1 on the season, but holds a subpar 2-3-1 record in conference play.
“We have had a couple of losses we shouldn’t have," midfielder Bridget Blessie said. "We cannot afford to lose any more games in order to be where we want to be at the end of the season.”
The Griffons have relied heavily on a solid defense and an extremely reliable goalkeeper to stay afloat this season.
The Griffons' defense has yet to give up more than one goal in a game. This statistic has been critical.
As of Western’s six wins, four of them have been by a single goal. Eight of the 11 games played by Western this season have been decided by one goal.
This well-executed defense, alongside an impressive season being put together by goalkeeper Sarah Lyle, are an excellent combination for the Griffons. Facing 115 shots on the season, Lyle has 46 saves and only eight goals allowed. Her presence in the goal has been valuable and allows for the offense to be able to find a way to victory.
The Griffons' offense has been fueled by Blessie and Sydney Cluck. The two midfielders each have three goals apiece to lead the team. Between the two of them, they have put up 53 shots, 32 being on goal.
This dynamic duo also share another significant, more impactful statistic this season. Both Blessie and Cluck have a pair game-winning goals. The most recent game-winner by Cluck took down conference-foe Emporia State. Cluck would find the net in double overtime against the Hornets this past Sunday to secure a 1-0 victory.
This victory is one that the Griffons believe could propel them through the remainder of their season.
“The win this weekend really helped boost morale,” Lyle said.
The team is not down on itself.
“We have never given up and will continue to fight for the remainder of the season,” Blessie said.
The goals of the team moving forward are just as high as they have been all season. Blessie, Cluck and Katie Kempf all hope to host a first-round tournament game. However, they also have one more common goal they hope to accomplish in the coming weeks.
The Griffons have six games to make the most of this season and find their way to the postseason. Western hosts Nebraska-Kearney and Fort Hays State this weekend at Spratt Stadium. They travel to Northwest Missouri State on October 30.
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Sydney Andrews approaches ball during Friday's win over Missouri Southern. Zack Papenburg | Photo Editor[/caption]
The Griffons are off to one of their best starts in program history, and Sydney Andrews has played a pivotal role engineering that start. Plus, she is doing it all with a hearing disability.
Soccer is a sport were communication is key, so it is hard to imagine how she's able to hear on the field, while also playing at a high level.
"I am deaf in both ears," Andrews said. "I got hearing aids when I was two."
Hailing from Wichita, Kansas, Andrews was born deaf, but that never distracted her from doing what she wanted.
One of the keys for Andrews is being aware of things around her. She feels that her teammates do a good job with making sure she is aware.
"Because I am deaf, I have to be a lot more aware of the (other) players," Andrews said. "The players on the field can't talk to me. (That) makes it harder for my teammates, but I have really good teammates."
One of those teammates includes Sarah Lyle. Lyle noted that Andrews has become one of the leaders of the team.
"For the two years I have been here, I have seen her grow from her personality on-the-field and off-the-field," Lyle said. "She is a more positive and upbeat person. She does not really get the credit she should, but she has really been a positive role model for the girls on the team."
That type comfort is why Andrews decided to come to Western. With offers from other schools, Andrews felt like Western was a family.
"I had some other contacts, but this school stood out to me," Andrews said. "We have a great team atmosphere, a great coach and a great group of girls."
The defender's disability has opened up to some wonderful opportunities along the way, including being able to travel overseas to play soccer.
"I played for the USA Deaf Women's National Team," Andrews said. "I joined the team in 2012 and went out for a tryout. I was actually getting recruited by a coach and he told me about it."
On the experience, Andrews thought it was interesting playing with other deaf players. She even came back to the states with a medal.
"That year, we went up to Turkey for the deaf World Cup, beat Russia and took first. It was pretty awesome," Andrews said. "The following year, we went to [the] Deaf Olympics in Bulgaria, and we won there, too. This year we are going to Italy."
Being deaf has it's disadvantages, but Andrews is determined to not let it hold her back, not even on the field.
"Personally, it's kind of nice, being out there, just out there playing," Andrews said. "You don't hear fans, although fans are nice, there are no distractions."
The Griffons played close with a pair of top-10 regional teams and plan to keep the positive vibes rolling.
Western made its way to Oklahoma this weekend, but returned without a victory.
The Griffons faced both Central Oklahoma and Northeastern State during their stint in Oklahoma. Although both games were close, they could not find the back of the net enough to get past the two opponents.
On Friday, the Griffons faced the Bronchos of Central Oklahoma.
Western would strike first in this matchup when Cassidy Chappell found the net in the tenth minute. It would be Chappell's second goal of the season.
Central Oklahoma would equalize the score later in the first half. Neither team scored in the second half.
Although it was not a victory, this draw against Central Oklahoma represents a positive sign for the Griffons.
“We had yet to score against UCO, so to tie, it wasn’t what we wanted, but it is a step in the right direction,” senior Drew Mantlo said.
Two days later, Western traveled across Oklahoma to Tahlequah to take on Northeastern State.
Northeastern State entered the contest sixth in the region.
Western would fall 1-0 to the RiverHawks, but held them scoreless until the 62nd minute of the match.
Losing to Northeastern State was not how the Griffons wanted to end their road trip, but as with the game against UCO, Western players were not hanging their heads.
“We tied UCO, who beat Northeastern, so it shows that we are right there with the other teams,” junior goalkeeper Sarah Lyle said.
Western suffered just their second loss of the season, but the team sees the positives and is taking the season one game at a time.
Both Lyle and Mantlo emphasized the positive attitude the team has kept.
“It’s frustrating to lose, but everyone kept their head up and brought positivity to push forward and win next week,” Lyle said.
Although the Griffons couldn’t find their way to victory this weekend, head coach Chad Edwards is pleased with the effort his team gave in both games.
“Overall, this wasn’t really a terrible weekend. I’m really proud of how we competed in both games,” Edwards said.
This week Western (4-2-1) hosts Missouri Southern State and Southwest Baptist.
Defender Taylor Gant’s stingy defense against Lindenwood earned her MIAA Defensive Athlete of the Week for the second time in her career.
Gant and the Griffons only allowed the Lions to score one goal on 14 shots. For the season, Western has only allowed 46 shot attempts with just 27 on goal.
Western has only given up four goals in five games so far this season.
In addition to her stout defense, Gant scored her first goal of her career to give the Griffons a 1-0 lead against Lindenwood.
She was able to dribble the ball from midfield and take it past multiple Lions’ defenders to score the goal.
The program is off to a record 4-1 start as they prepare for their conference opener on Friday against Centeral Oklahoma in Edmond.
Although some transitioning from her hometown of Duluth, Minn., was required, Sarah Lyle has made herself at home at Missouri Western.
The stand-out goalkeeper found her way to Missouri Western from Duluth East High School in Duluth, Minn. At Duluth East High School, Lyle compiled quite the resume. She was not only named a captain, but was named to the Duluth News All-Area Team, as well as, being named MVP in 2011.
Her stats were equally attention-grabbing. In 34 games, she recorded 15 shutouts and 278 saves on her way to leading her team to the State Sectional Final.
Despite her exploits on the field, it wasn't soccer that initially drew Lyle to St. Joseph.
The path to Missouri Western was influenced by several different coinciding events.
The biology program at was the first thing to attract Lyle to Western.
When Lyle first visited Missouri Western, she was immediately impressed by the campus.
“It doesn’t compare to any other school I visited,” Lyle said.
After visiting the state-of-the-art facilities and getting to experience the soccer atmosphere Western provided, Lyle concluded her tour by telling her mom that this is where she wanted to be.
So began Lyle’s journey of becoming a Griffon and leaving behind what she knew in Duluth.
Lyle and Griffon soccer coach Chad Edwards' paths first crossed at a club team tournament in Springfield, Mo., which Edwards was the manager of.
Lyle's club coach contacted Edwards when he took the job at Missouri Western and let Edwards know that Lyle was an outstanding goalkeeper that was already interested in Missouri Western. That's when she received the offer to become a Griffon.
That offer solidified Lyle's college decision. She would be headed to St. Joseph, describing it as “the perfect opportunity.”
She credits her quick adaption to her overly supportive teammates that have been her family away from home.
The biggest challenge to Lyle was overcoming the dialectic difference… Though this barrier provided some humor when trying to order food on campus.
Being a Minnesota-native has also had its benefits for Lyle's current teammates,
When Western traveled to Minnesota to face Bemidji State and Minnesota Crookston, the goalkeeper's family played host for the Griffons.
This was an experience that she cherished.
“My parents are both teachers, so it is difficult for them to make it to my games, both because of their schedules and because it is at least a nine-hour drive,” Lyle said.
This team stay in Minnesota included “a spaghetti dinner, a trip to Lake Superior, and over all just a chance to relax together as a team.”
This was not only a special experience for her, but for her teammates as well. Being able to host her team was “bringing her home away from home to her real home.,” was a special experience for Lyle.
Moving forward, Lyle wants to promote how much the program has changed in a positive direction. As the program continues to rise and the level of player the program attracts continues to rise as well, but each is focused on a common goal.
“Every single player has bought in and wants to be the best team,” Lyle said.