In the last two seasons, the women’s soccer team won a combined three games; two of those victories against Illinois College. But after a pair of nonconference blowouts last week, the Prairie Fire now stand at 4-3 (0-1 in Midwest Conference play).
The Prairie Fire put on an offensive clinic, scoring 15 goals – eight against Lincoln Christian University (2-5), and seven against MacMurray College (0-5).
Against MacMurray, all seven goals came in the first half. Sophomore Arielle Dorman scored twice, and junior Emma Swanson notched a hat trick. Though the game was all but over after the first half, the team still benefited from the second half.
“It gave us an opportunity to work on possession and passing,” said Swanson. “We get to switch positions, get everyone on the field.”
The infusion of young talent into the women’s soccer program did not begin this season. Last year’s team was led in goals by then freshman Dorman, a forward from Bothell, WA. Dorman remains a goal-scoring threat, tallying six in her first four games after missing three games due to illness.
This season, the team’s five freshmen – Raleigh DeRose, Kate Babington, Brynn Cole, Charlotte Garvin and Rachel Koene – have all been featured in the starting lineup. Koene, Garvin and Cole have started all three games.
For Swanson, the difference between this year and the last two is simple.
“We are better,” said Swanson. “We have more players, and the players that we do have are just more talented. We’ve worked really hard at recruiting, and it’s paying hefty dividends.”
Koene, a freshman goalkeeper from Golden Valley, Minn., has been part of an improved defense. In their first seven games last season, the team surrendered 36 goals. Through seven games in 2010, they have only allowed 15 goals. In their only truly lopsided loss of the season, Knox lost 5-0 to Lake Forest. Last season, Lake Forest scored ten goals.
Though the team is still in the bottom half of the Midwest Conference in terms of goals-allowed, the improved offense has given them some leeway. Still, with a conference-heavy schedule between now and the end of the season, the team knows they must carry over the momentum from the non-conference blowouts.
“It’s really good for the strikers to score goals and get some confidence,” Swanson said. “We hope that can carry over into conference play.”
Grinnell College (1-5, 0-0) visits Jorge Prats Field at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25.
On Wednesday night, the Prairie Fire defeated Robert Morris-Springfield 2-1.