The Prairie Fire women’s soccer team (2-12, 1-5) has only three regular season games left.
On Saturday, the team plays Beloit College (5-5) in Beloit, Wis. The team will later host the Fighting Scots of Monmouth College (3-10-1) on Tuesday, Oct. 27.
The Prairie Fire will wrap up their regular season on Halloween when they travel to Grinnell, Iowa to face the Pioneers of Grinnell College.
This season, the team’s success has not been measured in the wins and losses column, but has been measured by the effort put forth on the pitch.
All their effort was celebrated last weekend as parents came from around the country to appreciate the games on Family and Friends Weekend. They watched the 16 players battle in the cold in pursuit of their second Midwest Conference (MWC) victory.
The Prairie Fire played host to the Red Hawks of Ripon College (3-11) last Saturday. Knox came out fast, scoring the first goal of the game in the third minute when sophomore Emma Swanson drove the ball over Ripon keeper Angelica Cooper for her second goal of the season.
“It’s important for any team to get the first goal, but I think it is extra important for us. I think it gives us a confidence boost. It reminds us we can score,” Prairie Fire assistant coach John Baillie said after the game.
A team is most vulnerable after it scores, and Ripon took advantage of the Prairie Fire complacency and tied the score up less than a minute later. The Red Hawks kept on rolling as Ripon sophomore Sara Wimmer scored two more goals in less than 10 minutes to make the score 3-1. The Ripon players were able to get open shots in the box and make them count.
The Prairie Fire did not hang their heads for long. Freshman Ariel Dorman launched a shot, which Cooper blocked. However, senior Rozie Smith was there to knock in the rebound, scoring her sixth goal of the season with 13 minutes left in the half to bring the goal differential to only one.
In the 43rd minute, Ripon midfielder Lauren Frankiewicz was given a red card, so Ripon had only 10 players on the field for the whole second half. However, it was heartbreak city as Ripon was able to score again right before the halftime buzzer to push the lead back up to two goals.
Also in the first half, freshman midfielder Erin Majewski was injured and could not play the rest of the weekend.
“Erin is a heck of a player. She has been playing her heart out and been a key part of the team,” Baillie said.
The injury caused the Knox coaches to do some shuffling over halftime. One of the changes was to move sophomore Mollie Strawn from defender to midfielder.
“It’s a lot more running,” Strawn said jokingly. “It’s a cool switch because it lets you be more a part of the offense and lets you have an effect on both ends of the field.”
In the second half, Ripon was still able to put pressure on the Knox defense, despite being a player down. The Red Hawks sent balls through the Prairie Fire defense, even causing sophomore keeper Alex Rauland to make a one-on-one save. The Prairie Fire defense would bend but never break, and Ripon could not score.
Knox took advantage of their superior numbers and senior Danielle Roeder scored the third goal from a throw-in from Dorman. This was Dorman’s second assist of the game and her fifth assist of the year. The Prairie Fire could not get the equalizer, though, and the game ended in a 4-3 victory for the Red Hawks.
“The team played a phenomenal second half,” Baillie said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t come out strong in the first half and that was the key.”
The very next day, Knox had the daunting task of playing the defending MWC champions, Carroll University (12-1-1). The conditions were perfect for soccer: sunny and clear. Because of the injury to Majewski and the team speed of Carroll, the usual 3-4-3 formation used by the Prairie Fire became a 4-4-2 formation.
The Pioneers meant business. They put together excellent combo plays and scored six goals in the first 22 minutes. Carroll wanted to show why they are the favorite to win the MWC crown again. Knox could not get anything going offensively as the Pioneers dominated the time of possession and rained 20 shots on goal.
“The girls played really well. They came out a little slow but settled down real fast,” Baillie said. “[The new formation] was decently successful. We had a 45-minute stretch where we didn’t allow them to score.”
By the time the game was over, Carroll had run up the score to 10-0.