The curse of early goals that has plagued the ISU soccer team earlier this season reared its ugly head again on Friday. After snapping three straight wins on a four game home stand early last week, the Redbirds suffered two straight losses Friday and Sunday. Facing off against the Milwaukee Panthers (2-6-1) on Friday before taking on the Kansas Jayhawks (5-4-1) on Sunday, the ’Birds dropped both games to fall to (5-6-0).

“We’re just missing that final touch. We need somebody to step up and make that big play. Right now we’re very close but we can’t quite find it,” head coach Drew Roff said. “It’s frustrating, but I can’t fault the effort. The effort is there, the quality is there, for the most part. But as you know, you have to capitalize when you get the opportunity.”

Milwaukee 2, ISU 1

Reminiscent of the losses suffered by the ’Birds earlier this season, Milwaukee got an early lead in Friday’s match by scoring in the game’s second minute. The Panthers’ Kelly Lewers played a ball from the left to Krissy Dore, who was awaiting her opportunity at the center of the goal. Dore caught just enough to send the shot rolling in for her team-best fifth goal of the season.

The Redbirds quickly answered, however, just a few short minutes later. Junior Rachel Tejada evened the match at one on a three-way connection. Dagney Olson found Kyla Cross in the penalty area, who then played a pass to Tejada. She shot one inside the left post for her team-best eighth goal on the season, also marking six straight games with a goal. Cross’ assist is also a team best, this being her fifth.

Lewers then followed up in the game’s 25th minute in what would be the game’s ultimate goal. It was set up by a corner quick which found Milwaukee’s Alleina Szydlowski, who fired a shot that was saved by ISU keeper Aryn Newsom. Lewers was there for the rebound, sailing it in to put her team up for the final 2-1 score.

The ’Birds rallied for more shots in the game, including the emotional final minutes when Tejada nearly tied the game at two. Tejada had a one-on-one opportunity which came in the game’s 86th minute which went wide to the ride; this wound up being ISU’s last chance.

“Our sense of urgency was just too little too late at the end,” Roff said. “I wish we would have come out with that intensity early in the match.”

“It’s just another lesson learned before conference play begins,” Roff said. “I’m hoping that we can get things turned around. This group has been shown to be resilient and bounce back nicely. I’m expecting a much improved performance, hopefully starting Sunday.”

Kansas 2, ISU 0

Sunday’s match-up in Kansas did not carry the same early burden that befell the Redbirds on Friday. Instead, play remained even through much of the first period, until Kansas took the lead in the 31st minute. The Jayhawks’ Ali Kimura caught a cross from Caroline Kastor. Kastor then chipped the ball to Liana Salazar, who shot past Newsom to put Kansas up by one through the half.

The score remained 1-0, Kansas, until the 65th minute when Salazar returned with an assist. She sailed a long ball to Ashley Williams, who beat Newsom to the punch and floated it in for the finishing touch.

As they did at home against Milwaukee, ISU out-shot Kansas 23 to 20, but the Jayhawks’ keeper Kaitlyn Stroud managed nine saves while Newsom only came up with five.

Roff was not discouraged by his teams weekend performance, despite coming away with the two losses.

“I think they’re doing well. I think it’s just that you have to have that mentality, you have to have that confidence. Sometimes we’re actually over-passing,” Roff said. “We like to be unselfish and we like to get everybody involved. But I think there’s times we have to have a shot at the goal. We just need to take some more chances and we need to get a couple players going.”

The ’Birds will get their next chance to get the team back on track against IPFW at 4 p.m. this Friday at Adelaide Street Field.

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