MARYVILLE, Mo. — A 3-0 loss to Central Missouri on Friday afternoon didn’t change what a monumental day it was for the Northwest Missouri State soccer program.
The Bearcat home opener marked the first game the team has played on the completely renovated Bearcat Pitch. The enhanced facility highlighted by its new turf and scoreboard drew rave reviews even from the Bearcats’ opponents on Friday.
“The opponent, they were amazed at what we have now and really liked how it played,” Northwest coach Marc Gordon said. “They felt like it was a great surface, which we have known — we’ve been on it for a while.”
The Bearcats (1-1-1) dominated time of possession in the first half against the Jennies (4-3), but they were unable to find the back of the net with a strong wind at their backs.
“I felt like our shot selection with the wind, we can be a little ambitious and take probably inappropriate angles rather than still trying to keep it on the ground and seeing if we can find some seams to slot a ball through and make the game simpler,” Gordon said.
On the other end, the Jennies played a defensive-focus style in the first half, but when they got their opportunity in the 14th minute, they took full advantage.
Central Missouri junior Kassie Newsom — a St. Louis transfer — took advantage of a miscue by the Bearcat defense and buried the Jennies first shot of the match in the back of the net.
“Some miscommunication on the first goal,” Gordon said. “We had three freshmen and it looked like they were in a wrestling match. It comes off a falling defender right at her feet and she tucks it away.”
The Bearcats continued to get opportunities in the first half, but were unable to even the score. The match went into halftime with Central Missouri ahead 1-0.
The early portion of the second half proved costly for Northwest as the Bearcats adjusted to playing with the wind in their faces.
Central Missouri freshman Sydney Leslie scored a pair of goals within two minutes of each other to essentially put the game in the win column for the Jennies.
“The two quick goals in the second half kind of put the game to bed for them,” Gordon said.
The second was a free kick off of a penalty that the Shawnee Mission West product was able to bury around the Bearcat wall and into the corner of the net past keeper Grace Goetsch.
“We gave up a silly foul for the set piece,” Gordon said. “The player hit a great shot and did what what she was supposed to."
Goetsch bounced back and was able to keep the Jennies off the board for the rest of the game.
“Her growth, even from the fall, has been significant in terms of her managing the box,” Gordon said. “I think she is more confident.”
Gordon says he will continue to develop all his goalkeepers as the season moves forward. Freshman Ashley Williams played the first half on Friday and Goetsch took over in the second half. Junior Alexis Serna Castillo has also seen plenty of action this season.
Williams, a freshman from Riverside, California, gives the Bearcats a lot of athleticism in the goal. Her goal kicks on Friday led to some instant-offense opportunities for Northwest because of their depth.
“Ashley is very athletic as you saw and the wind assisted her,” Gordon said. “She can drive a ball 50 or 55 yards without the wind. Our players are still getting used to that quality because we haven’t had that before in terms of our forwards and recognizing how high they need to be up the field. I think it helps us from a dynamic that teams have to respect that she can play that kind of a ball. It gives us time to play how we want to play out of possession in the back.”
Getting the offense back on track will be a key moving forward as the Bearcats scored five goals in a win over Central Missouri in the first match of the season, but have been unable to find the back of the net in a draw with Missouri Western and in Friday’s 3-0 loss.
“Some of it is: our players that have the opportunities to shoot trusting themselves to take the shot when they can and quality of the first touch,” Gordon said. "I felt like there were some opportunities that never developed because we just had heavy feet.
“I think the movement and the players’ positioning, we are doing the right things. It is just some of the simple things — passing quality, receiving quality — that we need to clean up. That is what I talked about in closing with the girls. That is what let us down today."
The Bearcats will attempt to recapture their momentum on Sunday with a trip to Emporia State. The Hornets are 4-0 this spring and Sunday will be their home opener.