MARSHALL - For a collegiate soccer team that starts nine freshmen, growing pains are too be expected. But for Southwest Minnesota State women's soccer coach TJ Buchholz, youth is not an excuse for losing. Not even against one of the best teams in the conference.
Facing Bemidji State, a top-three team in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, Saturday at the Regional Event Center, the young Mustangs played right with the Beavers throughout the match - even out-played them for large stretches. But at the end of the 90 minutes, even after out-shooting BSU 16-6, the Mustangs found themselves on the wrong end of a 1-0 final score.
Talking to his team following the match, Buchholz told his players that they shouldn't be satisfied with coming close.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Southwest Minnesota State midfielder Autumn Hayes, right, directs a pass in front of the goal as Bemidji State’s Tiffany VanHaaften (17)?and Mallory Lowe defend during Sunday’s Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference match at the Regional Event Center.
"I just made it clear that we don't tolerate losing and I expect us to win," said Buchholz, who is in his second year leading the Mustangs. "I think that's the mindset we need them to have as well.
"... They're making great progress, I'm just impatient. I want the progress sooner rather than later."
The Mustangs, who went 5-11-1 last year, are now 5-4 following the loss (3-4 NSIC). The Beavers move to 7-2-1 overall and 5-1-1 in NSIC action.
The deciding goal came with less than two minutes remaining in the first half when Bemidji State drew a penalty just above the left corner of the penalty box. BSU's Tiffany VanHaaften and Carly Dietrich both stood ready to take the free kick, and Vanhaaften made a quick first touch to set up Dietrich for a sharp strike that went into the upper-left corner of the goal past SMSU keeper Sonya Smith, who had no chance at stopping the shot.
The Mustangs had been the more physical, more aggressive team throughout the first half, and had a couple of close-range scoring chances that they were unable to capitlize on. The goal at the end of the half came as a big blow to the team.
"They're a good team, and when you make a mistake like that and give them an opportunity, they punish you," Buchholz said. "That's what they did. It was a costly mistake by us and it kind of took the momentum away from us. Then we just couldn't find a goal."
Neither team was able to produce many promising scoring chances in the second half until a late flurry by the Mustangs in the final few minutes. But each of their shots were either saved by BSU goalkeeper Sonja Barr or off target, and BSU went home with its fourth-straight win.
Freshmen Brittney Bravo and Kylee Nolan each had two shots on goal for the Mustangs in the losing effort. They each had scored a goal Saturday in the Mustangs' 4-0 home victory over Minnesota-Crookston.
SMSU is on the road next weekend for a pair of NSIC road matches. The Mustangs start the trip with Winona State Saturday, then face Upper Iowa on Sunday.
With eight matches left in the regular season, Buchholz is hoping his team continues to progress in learning what it takes to win together.
"When you start nine freshmen, it's hard for people to start understanding how to trust each other out there because you're all from a different club," Buchholz said. "We're good off the field, and what we're trying to figure out is how to learn to play together. That's just going to take time. Soccer is a rhythm game. You just have to learn to play with each other, and I think, at the end of the day, that's what we have to do better with."