Slow, rewarding road to ‘Winds first win

Karl Phipps

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Who can forget what transpired a week ago yesterday when St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire made baseball history by hitting his 62nd home run, thus surpassing New York Yankee great Roger Maris for the all-time single-season record?However, while the atmosphere in St. Louis on that historical day was filled with lots of joy and happiness, it didn’t quite compare to the joy and happiness which was shared by the WIU women’s soccer team.

The Westerwinds made a little bit of history of their own as they recorded their first-ever victory in the team’s second year of intercollegiate play.

The victory against in-state rival Eastern Illinois University Friday signaled the end of a 20-game losing streak dating back to last season.

Last year, the ‘Winds finally were given the chance to participate as a varsity-level team after years of petitioning to the athletic department.

In years past, the women’s soccer program was only recognized by the university as a sports club.

With the support of both university administrators and the athletic department, as well as the men’s soccer program, a new era was unveiled in WIU athletics.

Like any athletic team in any sport, it takes a while for a new team to become competitive.

Just look at professional sports teams like the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. It took those two teams a few years before they both experienced successful winning seasons.

‘Winds head coach Jennifer Daniels knew she had a challenge ahead of her when she decided to accept the coaching position just three days before the team’s first season began.

That first year was quite a roller coaster ride. Playing 17 games against some of the country’s best women’s soccer programs would give any first-year coach headaches.

But despite its losses, the ‘Winds players didn’t hang their heads or give up in any of their games.

Instead, they continued to work together as a team in the hopes of getting better as the season progressed.

This season, the ‘Winds and Daniels came in with a fresh new attitude – a new beginning, you might say. They put aside last season’s bad start and were looking to change things around.

The losing streak continued, though, as the ‘Winds lost their first three games, but each game saw the team stay close to their opponents until the end.

Of course a loss is still a loss, and the question on everybody’s mind was “when will the ‘Winds finally end the streak?”

Well, Friday the heavenly gods were looking over the ‘Winds at John MacKenzie Alumni Field.

In what was one of the ‘Winds’ best games in their short history, sophomore midfielder Renee Markese lifted the burden from the team’s back as she scored the only goal in the final minutes of the game.

‘Winds win! ‘Winds win!

Let the celebration begin. A well-deserved win was in order for the ‘Winds, who played their hearts out in front of the home crowd.

All the hard work and intense practices paid off for Daniels and the rest of the ‘Winds.

As the game ended and I saw all of the fans stand up and applaud the ‘Winds’ triumphant accomplishment, I reflected back to McGwire’s home run and what breaking Maris’ record meant to him.

I couldn’t have imagined what the ‘Winds were feeling as they finally won a game. But I’m sure they, like McGwire, were happy to put themselves in the history books.

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