Seeking its first Midwest Conference (MWC) victory on Saturday, the Prairie Fire (2-7-1, 0-2-1) battled another formidable conference foe in an overtime affair. Despite a stout defensive effort chaired by goalies senoir Emily Turner and sophomore Rachael Koene.Knox is still in search of its first conference triumph after a 2-1 home loss to the Ripon Red Hawks (5-7-1, 1-1-1).
Using the momentum from the defensive performance from last week’s Beloit match, the team did not allow the potent Ripon offensive attack to find the back of the net during the initial 45 minutes of play.
Though the Praire Fire subdued the Red Hawks’, defensively it was at the cost of a consistent offensive attack, as Knox managed just three shots for the first half.
But the offense finally broke through early in the second half, as junior forward Arielle Dorman’s team-leading eighth goal at the 54 minute mark provided the Fire with a 1-0 advantage.
Knox’s lead was temporary, as Ripon’s freshman phenom Brandi Peltier tied the contest just six minutes later. Peltier leads the MWC with 19 goals and 42 points.
During the remaining 30 minutes of regulation soccer, Knox and Ripon both failed to tally a score, forcing the Fire to play its second straight overtime contest. A tired Knox squad failed to produce a shot, and surrendered three to Ripon the first and final extra period. One of those Ripon shots came from the foot of the aforementioned Peltier, and provided the “golden goal” that gave the Red Hawks a 2-1 victory.
The overtime loss to Ripon marked Knox’s second MWC defeat and represented a defensive struggle dominated by both squads’ premier scorers. Eight of the Red Hawks’ 23 shots were attributed to Peltier, whereas three of the Fire’s five shots were due to the efforts of Dorman.
Knox’s impressive defensive performance was fuelled by the respective performances of Koene, who turned away eight Ripon shots, and Turner, who provided the team with three saves. At the forefront of the Fire’s recent defensive resurgence has been the play belonging to forwards and midfielders who have truly played both ways and provided Knox defenders with needed assistance.
“I think we’ve kept possession better up front and in the middle … Our teamwork has gone better these past couple games,” said sophomore defender Brynn Cole.
In terms of scoring Cole understands that improvements need to be made.
“We need to score. We need to continue to improve our play altogether … possession, passing to feet, and taking chances in front of the net,” said Cole.
Cole is confident that “the hard work is … there,” believing that the team’s “unity” will prove fruitful to the squad’s improved scoring efforts, as the team will “leave it all out on the field … throughout the rest of the regular season.”
“Our team has been through some ups and downs … We have to stick together,” said Cole. “We’ve been taking it one game at a time. Everyone has stepped up to what’s been asked of them.”
So long as the Prairie Fire continues to stymie its MWC opponents with a zealous defense effort, the women’s soccer team will provide its faithful hope, and remain competitive in conference play. If the diligent Knox squad is able to diversify its offensive attack and include all forwards, besides Dorman, in its scoring mix, then the Fire will improve its chances to notch late season MWC victories.
On Wednesday night, the Fire hopes to collect a nonconference win when the team travels to Rock Island to battle the 7-4-1 Augustana Vikings before resuming MWC play at Monmouth on Saturday.