The Redbirds women soccer team packed the stands this weekend to open its season against two NCAA contenders from 2012. ISU split the two games on Friday and Sunday at Adelaide Street Field.
After defeating defending MAC champion Miami-Ohio on Friday the ’Birds fell to Big Ten foe Wisconsin.
“I think we got worn down a little bit [on Sunday], so we know that we need to be physically and mentally prepared from the start,” head coach Drew Roff said. “Every team presents a different challenge … But we’re just going to focus on improving some certain areas. As I mentioned, teams at the high end of college soccer make you pay for mistakes. That’s the level we wanna be at, that’s the level we want to play at. It’s a learning experience.”
ISU 3, Miami-Ohio 2:
Coming off of one of the best years in their program’s history, Miami-Ohio came out on the defensive through the early part of Friday’s game. Though the Redbirds controlled the ball through much of the first half, the RedHawks struck first. Two-time All-MAC First Team choice Katy Dolesh attacked with a shot that was saved, and teammate Kayla Zakrzewski was there to put the rebound in, making it 1-0 MU.
In the final 10 minutes of the first half, junior forward Rachel Tejada assisted senior Kyla Cross to tie the score, 1-1. Eight minutes later, freshman Hannah Leinert scored her first goal as a Redbird with another Tejada setup, making it 2-1 Redbirds. Redshirt freshman Rhianna Krutz earned her first career point with an assist on the play.
Dolesh came back in the second half with an unassisted goal that tied the match, 2-2. The Redbirds never faltered, as Cross scored on a three-pass build up from the back that would ultimately be the game winner. Roff pointed to Cross as a player who stood out in Friday’s match.
“I thought Kyla was a difference-maker today,” Roff said. “There were times when we lost a little bit of our edge and the momentum. Instead of hiding, Kyla was looking for the ball, active, defending and dealing with some hard defending. Her performance was fantastic.”
Wisconsin 4, ISU 1:
Big Ten opponent Wisconsin came out in full force on Sunday afternoon’s match-up, producing two goals early on that would set the pace for the rest of the game. Badgers’ junior Cara Walls, who has led UW in goals and points in each of the last two seasons, turned out two goals under a blazing sun that would prove to be too much of a deficit for ISU in the game’s remainder.
“I think the start of the game really set the tone of the game, unfortunately,” Roff said. “I mean, I like how we battled back after that, but when you’re chasing the game that early it changes things. I felt like the second half they raised their game a bit, and unfortunately we looked tired. So tip your hat to Wisconsin, it was just one of those days where we had our moments, but top to bottom we lost too many battles.”
The Redbirds rebounded after Wisconsin’s early goals with Cross assisting Leinert for her second goal of the weekend and her career. ISU also seemed to control the ball through the rest of the first half, but could not produce another goal before halftime.
“I’m just trying to work my hardest out there, whether I get a goal or not I’m just trying to work hard for my team,” Leinert said. “I think we had our opportunities and we just didn’t finish. [There was a call] when Kyla fell down in the box. I think that should’ve been a PK and if we would’ve scored that the game would’ve been totally different.”
Though the ’Birds could not produce off of a penalty kick, the Badgers’ managed to do so on a similar situation in the early part of the second half. Sophomore midfielder Kinley McNicoll bested ISU keeper Laura Burrill on the PK, before assisting junior forward Nikki Greenhalgh in the 60th minute to put WU up to their final tally of 4-1.
“Right now we need to focus on keeping the ball out of our net,” Roff said. “I know we have goal scorers; we have dangerous weapons. But, too many goals in the back of our net is something we have to address. We need to clamp things down a bit and keep things a bit tighter.
It was a good learning experience for us. We needed a game like this probably. Even though it’s hard to swallow at the time. Looking forward, it’s going to help us get better,” Roff added.
Sitting 1-1 on the season, the Redbirds women soccer squad now holds an all time 23-13-3 record against MAC opponents, and 8-21-2 against Big Ten teams. They will gear up to face two more Big Ten teams this weekend, on Friday, Aug. 30 at Minnesota and on Sunday, Sept. 1 Illinois.