Most Missouri Western students have that one friend who goes to another college and always talks about how great their athletics program is even though their school is only good at one sport. The conversation, of course, ends up in a semi-serious argument to see who can one-up the other person. This fall, Western athletics have given students the upper hand in that argument. Obviously football is going to be involved in the debate, but it should be. Since 2000, our football program has a record of 122-55, which includes six Mineral Water Bowl appearances, four NCAA playoff berths and two MIAA championships. Those facts alone might win the argument, but why stop there? Volleyball had an incredible year with an overall record of 22-8. During their season, the Griffons compiled eight wins in-a-row, which is the longest win streak since 2002. The success led them to finish the season tied for No. 4 in the MIAA. Also, the team had the chance to witness libero Sarah Faubel break the career digs record, which was originally set with 1,565 digs but now stands at 1,799. Thanks to soccer’s historic season, Western students will be on the winning end of a one-sided dispute. While ending their season with a 9-9-1 record, the team broke a staggering 21 combined career and season records. Individually, forward Tara Russell now holds five Griffon soccer records, goalie Sarah Lyle holds four and head coach Chad Edwards holds one. During the historic season, Western amassed a five-game win streak and also made it to the MIAA tournament. The fall sports have made it easy for students to brag about Missouri Western’s wide spread athletic success. Going into winter break, students have nothing to fear when they engage their friends in the inevitable “whose school is better” argument. This is the perfect time to take pride in what Western athletics have accomplished.
Western’s historic season came to an end Wednesday with a loss to Fort Hays State University in the first round of the MIAA Tournament. The Griffons entered the MIAA Tournament for the first time in school history as the sixth seed. Throughout the game they relied on their stout defense to take them into double-overtime, but the Tigers scored in the 107th minute to win the game 1-0. This season Western broke more than 20 records including, most wins (nine), longest win streak (five) and most shut outs (eight). Head coach Chad Edwards also broke the all-time career wins record with 21, while goalie Sarah Lyle and forward Tara Russell also broke career records. The team set the tone early in the season when Teddi Serna scored the game winning goal against Harding University during double-overtime in the 101st minute of their first game. They continued their strong start in their second game by breaking the record for most goals scored in a game with a 6-0 win against East Central University. This led to a 3-0 start to the season, which is the best start in school history. Later in the season, the Griffons won five games in a row by score of 1-0. Western achieved their ninth win against Lindenwood University, in over-time, with a score of 2-1. In total, the team played in six over-time games, won seven games by a score of 1-0 and finished the season with a 9-9-1 overall record.
Two years ago, I joined the Griffon News sports desk. Covering Western soccer was my assigned beat. I went to every home game and kept up online when they were on the road. I remember watching Abby Widrig kick one from 40 yards out to win it and I remember watching a double overtime loss to Northwest on a freezing Friday night. That year they went 6-9-1, their highest amount of wins in a season since 2009. Not the greatest record, but that season made me fall in love with soccer as a sport. So, when I became the assistant editor for the sports desk last fall, I decided to stick with my soccer beat. It looked promising with a strong freshmen class and a great transfer in Tara Russell. But, then the injury bug bit them hard. They struggled their way through hard fights, but never seemed to come out on top. I called them mediocre at one point and we had a column calling out one of the seniors on the team. I received a phone call from head coach Chad Edwards who basically told me that the negative coverage wasn't appreciated and it wasn't helping the girls remain confident. I don't apologize for the coverage from last season. It was never intended to be negative, but writing reviews of losses isn't the easiest thing to do. Especially when they go 2-13-2 on the year. Now, I'm the Editor-in-Chief. I wrote my season preview for them and I was still just as optimistic as last season. Katie Kempf and Russell were both 100% healthy and this was the strongest freshmen class the team had had in years. So, when they started out 3-0, I was pretty happy. Then they fell to 3-4-1. It kind of set back in that maybe it just wasn't meant to be. Thank goodness they proved me wrong. They responded to the slump with a five-game win streak. This past Sunday, thanks to an OT goal by Sydney Andrews, the Griffons clinched a spot in the MIAA Tournament for the first time in program history. In almost a decade of Western soccer, the team has a winning record. With two games left to close out the season, the Griffons look like they could make a serious statement in the tournament. With all of that being said, I want to congratulate the soccer team. It has been one hell of a season and you ladies deserve every ounce of success.
The Griffons are two games away from the end of their season and are edging near the the playoffs. The Griffons are in fifth place in the MIAA with a 9-6-1 record so far. The top eight teams make the postseason and the top four host games. Sitting on the edge of hosting a tournament game, the Griffons are trying to win out the rest of their games and move up in the conference standings. Forward Katie Kempf is looking forward to the next few crucial games. "This will be the first time the we have gone to the playoffs since the tournament started a few years back," Kempf said. "It would be amazing to host our first playoff appearance, too." The players that are not seniors are excited about this because of all the recruiting aspects that a playoff team could mean for their future. Goalkeeper Sarah Lyle, who has eight shut outs, is happy about the season compared to last year and what it could. "This season is a lot better than last season with all of the injuries that caused a bad season for us," Lyle said. "I had a friend who did not chose Missouri Western because of our record, they did not know about the injuries or anything." The Griffons play Northwest Missouri State for the last home game of the regular season. Northwest is sitting in the eighth spot right with a 6-7-1 record, and are on a two-game losing streak. Both the Griffons and the Bearcats have one tie this season and it happens to be with each other. The Bearcats are Missouri Western's rivals and always bring a tough game when they play. The Griffons have never beaten the Bearcats and hope to change that with the upcoming game. Forward Tara Russell is playing Northwest for what could be her last time. "Northwest is always a tough opponent because of the rivalry," Russell said. "If we come out and play our defensive game, and put a lot of shots on goal, I am sure we can win this game. We are a different team than the last time they saw us." The Griffons have achieved a winning record, but the goal is much greater with the MIAA playoffs coming up. Western will host Northwest on Friday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m.
The Griffons' season is almost over and they are currently ranked fifth in the conference. They look forward to the remaining games as they try to push towards a higher ranking and a playoff run. The key to the Griffons making the playoffs is winning one of the two match-ups against the University of Central Missouri that they have coming up. Katie Kempf knows that the games will be tough, but she believes that the Griffons are a good team as well. "Central Missouri is always at the top of the conference, and has great talent every year. They are not a team to be taken lightly," Kempf said. "Our team is fully capable of anything we put our minds to and if we focus on fixing the small things about our game we can be a force to be reckoned with as well." The first game against the Jennies will be in Spratt Stadium Friday at 4 p.m., while the last game of the season is also against UCM in Warrensburg. Western is only worried about one game at a time. Defeating the Jennies will not be an easy task, by any means, with a high scoring offense and a stingy defense. The Jennies have a nearly perfect record this far through the season with 11 wins, no losses, but one tie. Throughout these 12 games the Jennies have scored 29 goals and have allowed only six. Central Missouri is ranked number nine in the nation and trying to finish a dream season with no losses. Tara Russell, who has scored for the Griffons multiple times this season, believes they can compete with the Jennies. "Well, we know UCM will be a tough opponent going into it. They are undefeated on the year, but they have kept opponents in the game," Tara said. "I think in order to win the game, we will have to keep our intensity on defense the entire game with no breakdowns. Offensively, we need to execute our chances when we get opportunities in front of the goal, because they could be limited this game." On the other hand, the Griffons are going into the game with a winning mentality. To be successful Western will rely on the stingy defense that they have had all season. Although there are ten players out on the field in front of her, all ten will look for Sarah Lyle to protect the net and work for her eighth shut out of the season. So far, she has seven and she feels very grateful for her defensive front. “It has been really nice because I have not had to worry about as many shots as last year,” Sarah said. “My defensive line is one of the best in the conference and without them none of this would be possible.” Head coach Chad Edwards has set goals for the team for the remainder of the season to try to get them the wins need for playoffs. “We are averaging 15 shots per game,” Edwards said. “We just need to find the back of the net, we are always going to give ourselves the chance to win the way we are defending.” The Griffons have a lot of work ahead of them with the upcoming games. Although two of the teams, Northwest and Lindenwood, are ranked under Missouri Western, they will play to beat the Griffons and pass them in the rankings in their final few matches. As always, the next 45 will be the only thing that Western focusses on as they make a playoff push. The Griffons will place their seven shutouts against the Jennies 29 goals on Friday, Oct. 24 in Spratt Stadium at 4 p.m.