Despite enduring three consecutive shutouts and five losses in a row, the Knox College women’s soccer team displayed unwavering character by earning a 1-1 draw against Beloit College in a Midwest Conference contest last Sunday.
The game was Knox’s second conference contest and marked the team’s first “Play for the Cure” event. It was also the Prairie Fire’s best performance since a 6-0 romp over the Eureka Red Devils on Sept. 7. According to junior midfielder Sam Thomas, the draw was evidence that the Fire’s “hard work is paying off.”
Playing focused soccer from the match’s onset the Prairie Fire (2-6-1, 0-1-1 MWC) played solid defense and relentlessly attacked Beloit goaltender Alex Spirov with a deluge of shots.
The determination was rewarded in the form of junior forward Arielle Dorman’s team-leading seventh goal of the season in the twenty-seventh minute. With the tally Dorman gave Knox a 1-0 advantage and propelled into a tie for fourth place on the Midwest Conference’s goals scored list.
The team was able to maintain its goal advantage at the conclusion of the first half, but relinquished its lead to the Buccaneers (3-5-1, 0-2-1 MWC) in the fifty-seventh minute, as Beloit forward Molly Dickson’s eleventh score of the 2011 season evened the match.
Following Dickson’s goal, the Prairie Fire regrouped to play a physical brand of soccer, as evidenced by the team’s seven second-half fouls, and the fact that the Buccaneers managed just three more shots the rest of the half.
While Knox was unable to break the 1-1 tie during the remainder of the second half and the two 10-minute overtime periods, the Fire produced a laudable offensive effort. Led by the abovementioned Dorman’s seven-shot effort, Knox outshot Beloit 19-13 during the one hundred and 10-minute deadlock. 10 of Knox’s 19 shots were on goal, though the Beloit goalkeeper Spirov corralled nine.
In only her second start as goalkeeper in 2011, sophomore Racheal Koene equaled Spirov’s spirited performance by playing the entirety of the contest in net, and making eight saves.
Being able to survive a physical match in which 26 fouls were called bodes well for Knox going forward. Nevertheless, the squad must become more acclimated to physical soccer if the squad is to succeed against Midwest Conference teams exhibiting a proclivity to engage in rough play.
“A lot of the teams in the conference are extremely physical. It’s something we need to be prepared for,” Thomas said.
In addition to expanding its appetite for physical play, the Prairie Fire must improve offensively, as the squad has solely managed to net two goals in its last six games. Through crisper passing and better execution of head coach Melissa Joseph’s offense, Thomas is confident that Knox will rectify the majority of its offensive deficiencies and manufacture a scoring attack that transcends mere “kick and run” soccer.
“In practice, we’ve been working on the plays … and connecting on more passes,” Thomas stated.
By improving their craft through daily assiduous efforts in practice, the players hope to find success in conference play and upset Midwest Conference squads that were selected to finish higher than the Prairie Fire in the MWC pre-season coaches’ poll.
“We’re planning on coming out strong the rest of the season and surprising teams,” Thomas said.
The Prairie Fire will hopefully continue to play inspired soccer when the Ripon Red Hawks come to Galesburg this Saturday.