MACOMB, Ill. – The Western Illinois women’s soccer team kick off their regular season at home this afternoon against the Missouri State University Bears. The team is off to a strong start after winning their first two exhibition matches against Southeastern Community College (5-0) and Quincy University (2-0).
In their first match up with SCC, the five goals were scored by five different Leathernecks. Sophomore Amy Andrews kicked things off in the 11-minute mark and no more than 10 minutes later, senior defender Madison Bulin doubled the lead. They weren’t done there, though. Sophomore Cassidy Grunewald made it 3-0 and juniors Lauryn Peters and Jenna Lundgren tacked on two more to seal the deal.
Eric Johnson, director of soccer, was extremely pleased with his side’s ability to find the back of the net and get their first win.
“I thought the rhythm of play was good in terms of our passing sequences. I thought our running off the ball was pretty good,” Johnson said in a post-game interview with Athletic Communications. “No matter what, you have to find a way to put the ball in the net, and we found a way to do that late in the game.”
In their second and final exhibition game, Western was able to pick up yet another shutout. Junior captain Natalie Nagle kicked things off not even 10 minutes into the game when she broke the deadlock. Sophomore Zoe Clarke scored the second goal from a perfectly placed long ball into the box from freshman Lynette Hawkins.
Senior goalkeeper Ines Palmiero Herrera only had to make two key saves in the first half while Western’s solid backline only allowed one shot in the final 45.
Johnson was once again proud of his squad.
“Good effort from the entire squad. Two games in three days is difficult, and I thought we handled it pretty well,” Johnson said. “We created some quality chances, so that is encouraging. Our backline was very good on the day and deserved the shutout.”
It’s without a doubt that after back-to-back shutouts, the team is heading into opening day with high hopes and tons of confidence.
MSU, on the other hand, kicked off their exhibition games with a 3-0 loss to Southeast Missouri State. They were able to bounce back when they won twice on a Sunday double-header. They beat Emporia State University 4-1 and Drury University 3-0, so the Bears are coming into this game with some momentum as well.
Last season, the Leathernecks opened up their season on the road against the Bears and fell 1-0. The last time the two squared off before that was back on Sept. 20, 2015 when Western fell on the road yet again, this time 2-0.
This time around, Western gets to play host. Last season’s affair was fairly even and back and fourth. MSU outshot Western 9-4, 4-3 shots on goal. Western did outshoot the Bears in the second half 4-3 but couldn’t overcome the first-half goal.
It’s looking like it could be a promising year for the team. We just have to hope they can continue their winning ways into the regular season.
The game against the Bears will be held at John Mackenzie Alumni Field at 5 p.m.