The season did not kick off the way the Knox College women’s soccer team would have liked it to, as the Prairie Fire fell 4-1 to Spalding University on Friday, August 31.
Things started off well for the Prairie Fire, who jumped to an early 1-0 lead after a goal from freshman Abby Jackson in the 11th minute. Jackson received a pass from the midfield, and after realizing she had space to shoot, took a shot from over 20 yards away. The ball looked to be headed over the net until the final few feet, when it dropped over the hands of the Spalding goaltender and into the net.
“I was definitely thinking just to get it on frame. It looked like it was going to go over, but then it dropped in right under the bar, so I was pretty stoked,” Jackson said.
“Abby loves the long floating shots, and she knew that she was within shooting range, so I was happy that she took the chance and it paid off,” head coach Melissa Joseph said.
But it would not be long before the Golden Eagles answered with a goal of their own. Just three minutes after Knox opened the scoring, Spalding’s Brittany Goode ripped a shot from inside the box past junior goaltender Rachel Koene, tying the game at 1-1.
Spalding continued to attack the goal, but Koene kept Knox in the game with a series of big saves toward the end of the second half.
As the second half progressed, Knox could no longer hold the Golden Eagles back. With tallies in the 58th, 68th and 72nd minutes, Spalding created a deficit the Prairie Fire could not recover from.
“With only 17 players, it is impossible to practice 11 v 11. It will take us a few games to get into our defensive groove,” Joseph said.
“We were a little tired, we have to improve our fitness,” Jackson said.
The game was not entirely disappointing for the Prairie Fire, which managed to put 13 shots on net total.
“[Koene] made some huge saves,” Joseph said, “However, we need to capitalize on our chances and [Koene] should not have to make that many huge plays.”
“I think we played well in the first half, but there are definitely things we need to work on. Our passes should have been right to feet,” Jackson said.
Though they did not end up on the score sheet for this game, the Prairie Fire will rely heavily on senior Arielle Dorman and sophomore Ella Peterson for offensive production. Dorman led the team with 12 goals last season, and Peterson added five in her first year with the program.
“Arielle and Ella are always very creative players that allow us chances to score,” Joseph said.
In addition to Jackson, Knox received a solid effort from freshman Madison Dana, who fired two shots on goal and had some of the best opportunities for the Prairie Fire against Spalding.
“Maddie, Abby and the other first years help us in many ways. They push the returners to excel and the returners push them to play more composed and confident. It is definitely a good give and take situation for all,” Joseph said of the youth influence.
In the end, Joseph kept it fairly simple when describing what it will take for Knox to have a solid 2012 campaign: “More communication, movement off the ball and composure will lead us to a successful season.”