‘Necks, ‘Winds target goals, may take varied paths

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Tuesday, the WIU men’s and women’s soccer teams kicked off the start of their seasons. The men started off in Peoria, Ill., vs. Bradley University, while the women trekked up to Chicago to face Loyola University. Both teams came home with losses, but significant gains were reaped in each game.For the women, it marked the beginning of their second season and the search for their first victory. Freshman forward Becki Brown started the season off on the right foot when she scored the Westerwinds’ first goal of the year at the 6-minute mark. The ‘Winds eventually lost the game 3-1, but coach Jennifer Daniels said the game was a great start for the team.

“We played the best 20 minutes I’d ever seen by any team that I’ve ever had. We put a goal in the first 6 minutes of the game, which I think shocked everybody, and it brought tears into the returnees’ eyes and myself just because of the accomplishment. It was a significant moment and we played well for the next 20 minutes. Overall it was a great way for us to start the season,” Daniels said.

This weekend the ‘Winds will be traveling to a tournament at Bowling Green University. The tournament was recently put together for programs like the ‘Winds that have just started out.

Teams include Robert Morris University and Board of Governors University, which are both in their second years, and Central Michigan University, which is in its first year. Daniels anticipates a successful weekend if the ‘Winds can make the appropriate changes in their game.

“It’s going to be teams that should be relatively close to our ability. After the results on Tuesday, we’re very happy with how we did, but there are things that we have to address. If we address those, then our game is going to be pretty solid and we have a good chance of it being a successful weekend for us. That’s our goal,” Daniels said.

The Leathernecks opened up against the Braves, who defeated them 1-0 in the final game of last season, without senior Eliu Hernandez, who led the team in goals with six, due to a severe hamstring injury he sustained earlier this summer. The ‘Necks came out in the first 20 minutes with a case of the jitters, according to coach Eric Johnson, and gave up a goal in the first 10 minutes. They eventually ended up losing 2-1 with junior midfielder Matt Hawkins scoring the lone goal in the first half.

“We had a lot of young players in the lineup, and Bradley was on us pretty well. We kind of recovered, but we gave up a goal in the first 10 minutes and that hurt. Late in the first half we started to play a little better and then in the second half we played really well. So I wasn’t totally discouraged, we were encouraged by the effort and some of the things we saw,” Johnson said.

This weekend the ‘Necks are host to the Kelme Classic which includes DePaul University, Southwest Missouri State University and the University of Memphis. SMSU is coming off a season in which it earned a berth to the national tournament and is currently ranked 23rd in the preseason polls. Johnson was very optimistic about this weekend and believes this will help the team get through the season.

“We have a lot of work to do because we’re still blending together. What we’re really trying to do right now is prepare. This weekend is going to be really competitive all the way through, and hopefully we can come out on top of a couple of them because we need to win early in the season to get our confidence up,” Johnson said.

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