Sports / The Prairie Fire / Uncategorized / November 9, 2017

Soccer looks ahead to the NCAA tournament

Senior Angie Gamez slide tackles her opponent on Monmouth in the Conference tournament championship. Knox beat Monmouth 3-1 to clinch their second straight birth to the NCAA national tournament. (Katy Coseglia/TKS)

The women’s soccer team saw success this weekend, beating Grinnell 1-0 in the semi-final of the Midwest Conference tournament. Knox went on to beat Monmouth College 3-1 to take the title of conference champions.

Junior Corina Leyva scored two goals for the Fire in the matchup against Monmouth and assisted junior Yvette Rodriguez on a third. After the team’s lead scorer senior Kayla Brown was injured, Leyva stepped up and now has eight goals to Brown’s 12. Leyva also scored the goal against Grinnell, proving to be an important asset to the Fire on the field.

“To be a champion again, back to back, felt really gratifying. All of our hard work really meant something, not just this season, but in the past four years. This entire season has been dedicated to being a unit, on and off the field. Essentially, when it came down to it, we all just did our jobs. We supported one another and played really well together, bringing about arguably some of the best soccer all season,” Senior captain Jacqlynn Milligan said.

“Each one of us wanted to excel past what we had achieved last year. All of us, including the coaches, are excited and ready for our game this Friday. It could not come sooner and we are all proud of our success but always want to achieve more,” senior captain Alyssa Stepanian said.

Junior goalkeeper Sierra Daniger has been a great asset to the Fire, proving it in her statistics. With eight shutouts this season and a save percentage of .923, Daniger has been a huge component to the team’s success. She spoke on the success of the Fire in the championship as well.

“The overall feeling was this sense of accomplishment and joy. We have worked so hard all season to repeat, and the championship was the chance for us to truly dominate. Before the game, we looked each other in the eye and said we would play for one another, and work hard to score, score, score. Together, we faced the challenge and I believe that this game was the culmination of the season thus far,” Daniger said.

To prepare for their match up against Wheaton, the women have been working really hard in practice.

“We’re making sure our bodies are rested on top of having intense practices. We know that playing Wheaton is going to be a battle, but we’ve battled our way through preseason, conference and the tournament, so it won’t be anything new. We just have to keep proving what our team can do,” Junior Alex Robertson said.

Robertson is fourth on the roster in goals scored, racking up a total of six this season and has two assists. With a shooting percentage of .200, Robertson has proven a dynamic player for the Fire.

Junior Breana Moreira tries to stop the ball during the team’s matchup against Monmouth. Knox’s defense was clicking in their 3-1 victory to advance to the national tournament. (Katy Coseglia/TKS)

Milligan attributes the success to the changes in training and the closeness of the team.

“I believe this year in particular has been spectacular. We tried and believed in a new formation and it ended up working out great for us. Our fitness standards were higher, as well as our personal standards for each other. I think this is the key to our success: our trust and belief in one another. Our motto ‘hold the rope’ represents just this. When the going gets tough, we look to each other to hold the rope,” Milligan said.

Daniger attributes the team’s success not only to their performance on the field but also the mindset off of it.

“On the field, everyone focuses on making those around them better. Off the field, we talk strategy and figure out how we can work together better. We are encouraging both on and off,” Daniger said.

“We only have three training days before our game so we know that we must come to practice ready to work and focus. We truly do not believe our journey is ending and the morale is great. We are working towards our goal together and that is something very special,” Milligan said.

The Fire has to go into the game focused, but still remain confident.

“The mindset going into the next game is to show that we deserve to be in the NCAA national tournament. Last year, we got seeded against the team who won the whole tournament, and this year we have a fighting chance, and really get to show what we’re made of,” Robertson said.

The team has been training physically and mentally for the difficult game against Wheaton.

“The mindset for our next game is to just play our way and do what we do. We know we have the talent and the capabilities, now we just need the execution,” Milligan said.

The coaching staff is extremely proud of the team and hopes to see them achieve success.

“Cliff and Chris are very happy with our success and really believe in us going into the tournament. They think that we deserve to be in the place that we’re at now because of how hard we worked to get there,” Robertson said.

The women will compete at Loras College Nov. 10 and 11, taking on Wheaton College for their first match in the NCAA Tournament.


Emily Mosher, Sports Editor

Tags:  alex robertson alyssa stepanian angelica gamez breana moreira chris haught-thompson corina leyva d3 nationals division III nationals jacqlynn milligan Kayla Brown Knox Soccer MWC champions MWC Championship MWC Tournament sierra daniger women's soccer

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