It takes courage and determination to forget the past. Last year, the Prairie Fire women’s soccer team had only one win all season, which was in Midwest Conference (MWC) play.
And it was the program’s first MWC victory in five years — a 2-1 win over Illinois College on Sept. 21, 2008.
The game last Saturday looked bleak as Knox (2-8, 1-1) fell to Lake Forest College (6-5) by a score of 10-3. The Foresters scored the first goal in under two minutes. But Knox answered back as senior forward Rozie Smith scored what would be one of two goals in the contest on a breakaway to even it up. Lake Forest proved to be too much, though, as they scored eight goals in the first half. Freshman Ariel Dorman scored her eighth goal of the season as well. Would the Prairie Fire women’s soccer team get over losing a MWC contest? This year’s team was picked last in the conference in the preseason poll. However, things rarely turn out as predicted.
“I think we are more dangerous than the rest of the conference realizes,” were the words out of assistant coach John Baillie’s mouth after Sunday’s matchup between the Prairie Fire and the Illinois College Lady Blues (2-7-1). The first half of play was tight and clean. The Prairie Fire struck first as the offensive pressure forced one of the Lady Blues defenders to clear the ball in traffic in front of the goalmouth. The ball then ricocheted off Dorman and hit the back of the net for her ninth goal of the season.
Knox had several more chances to score, but the Lady Blues’ keeper, Courtney Mersinger, was able to save several breakaways to keep the score from increasing. At least, that was until Smith received a pass from sophomore Emma Swanson and put it by the keeper to make the score 2-0 with five minutes until halftime. This was Smith’s third goal of the week.
“Our communication was strong right off the bat. Our passes were good. They were clean and everyone was there for each other,” said Smith after the game.
Things did not look nearly as sharp after halftime as the Prairie Fire came out slow. The Lady Blues were able to trap Knox on the defensive half for almost the rest of the game. The Prairie Fire could not get any combos together to put offensive pressure on IC.
After the game Baillie said, “In the second half, we played a little more like Illinois College. … We had moments where we tried to play just like them, and that was not successful for us because that’s their game and not ours.”
Knox’s defense held strong throughout the half. They prevented the Lady Blues from evening the score. The only goal the women gave up was off of a penalty kick which sailed just outside Knox keeper Alex Rauland’s hands. The Prairie Fire finally got its act together at the very end of the game and nearly increased the margin of victory. Time ran out on the Lady Blues and Knox netted its first conference win by a score of 2-1.
The Prairie Fire women’s soccer team plays again on Saturday and Sunday up in Wisconsin against St. Norbert College (4-6) and Lawrence College (5-4).
Looking toward the future, Smith said, “Our win looks good, we are 1-1 in conference, and we can’t wait to show the conference how our hard work has paid off.”