Women’s soccer regroups and looks forward to five-game home stand

Amy Andrews dribbles the ball against Louisiana Tech.

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Amy Andrews dribbles the ball against Louisiana Tech.

Bradley Piros, Sports Editor

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NORMAL, Ill. — The Western Illinois women’s soccer team played two away games over the weekend and fell short in both contests. The team is riding a three-game losing streak now after losing to the Northern Illinois University Huskies 1-0 at home back on Sept. 8. This past weekend, the Leathernecks lost to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers (3-0) on Thursday and the Illinois State University Redbirds (1-0) on Sunday.

This losing spell brings the team’s record down to 2-4-1 with both of the wins coming at home for Western. They have yet to win an away game, but rest assured, they have a five-game home stand starting this Friday (Sept. 20).

Western knew the difficult task they had over the weekend, and they had prepared all week for it, but no amount of preparing was going to help stop both the Panthers’ and the Cardinals’ stellar offenses. Not only were their offenses great; so were their defenses. Neither team allowed Western any breathing room as the Leathernecks were held to back-to-back shutouts.

Western has now played UWM six times and have never finished the 90 minutes with a win. The same goes for ISU. Western played them last year, making this their second meeting, but Western lost both games to the Redbirds as well.

In the game against UWM, Western was outshot 15-4 (8-3 SOG) with senior goalkeeper Ines Palmiero Herrera making five saves along the way. The Leathernecks managed only four shots, two in each period of play.

Western did figure out how to shut down the Panthers for the first 45, but it was the three second-half goals that made the difference.

The team tried to regroup for Sunday’s match against the Redbirds, but one of the best forwards in the nation, senior Kate Del Fava, scored her ninth goal in eight games, which ended up being the game-winner. She leads the Missouri Valley Conference with those nine goals and her 19 points. Those nine goals also rank her second in the NCAA Division I. With all that being said, Western had to try to stop her and the task just proved to be too much.

The good thing about last weekend is that it’s in the past. Western learned what they need to improve on and now they can regroup for the next upcoming five home games. Let’s take a look at how western matches up against some of those teams.

The Purple and Gold will kick off that home stand against the Drake University Bulldogs this Friday and the University of Northern Iowa Panthers on Sunday. The Leathernecks and Bulldogs have squared off nine times since 2011. Drake has won five games while Western won the other four. The series has never produced a tie. Last season the Bulldogs won 2-1 with a first half goal being scored by sophomore forward Amy Andrews. All three goals came in the second half.

On the other hand, the matchup against UNI favors the Leathernecks. The two played a pre-season match last spring, but the last time they played in the regular season was 2016. Western has an 8-4-2 record against the Panthers but lost 3-0 in that 2016 meeting.

Western is more than capable of beating both of these teams. The game against Drake will be a good one like always and the Panthers are a good test as well.

After this weekend, Western will be back at it again next Sunday against their final non-conference foe: Chicago State University. The last and only meeting between these two teams was back on Aug. 21, 2016 in which Western triumphed in an eight-goal thriller by a score of 5-3.

CSU will be a great final “tune up” match, if you will, where Western can really hone in on their shortcomings. The team will be fully focused and more than prepared to take on their Summit League opponents come October.

The first of those Summit League divisional matchups will be on Thursday, Oct. 3 against the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks and that ensuing Sunday against the Purdue University Fort Wayne Mastodons.

Western has a long way to go before they have to worry about that, though. Right now they have two games that they have to look forward to, and they’ll need their key playmakers to represent.

Look no further than the team’s leading goal scorer, Andrews. She’s got three goals on the season and is looking for more. Bridget Schuler and Emily Bollman each have a goal to their name as well.

Lately, defense has been creating offense abundantly. In the last home game against NIU, freshman Lynette Hawkins played wingback and was constantly taking the ball down the wide areas and whipped in some strong crosses. While Western hasn’t really connected on any of those aerial crosses, it’s always a plus when your defenders are getting up into the action.

Hawkins is the only freshman on the backline surrounded by upperclassman. Seniors Maddie Wilsey, Natalie Sielaff, Kayla McCormick and Madison Bulin are typically starters along with the sophomore Cassidy Grunewald. Head Coach Eric Johnson has some depth to the defense, something he hasn’t had in years past.

Now, let’s move on to the midfield. There are as always the juniors out of Yakima, Wash., Natalie Nagle and Lauryn Peters. The duo has only combined for one point this season, but the two of them are the ones running things in the center of the field. Along with them is fellow junior Jenna Lundgren who is third on the team with her nine shots. The three of them run the midfield game in and game out to assist the forwards.

As always, the last line of defense remains Palmiero Herrera. She just passed the 200 career save mark and has so much left in the tank. Look for her to make some key saves to keep her team in it this weekend.

The Leathernecks have yet another tough weekend ahead of them, as they won’t have one off for the remainder of the season.

The game against Drake kicks off this Friday at 4 p.m. on John Mackenzie Alumni Field followed by a 1 p.m. start time against UNI on Sunday.

Twitter: bradjp08

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