Women's soccer makes program history with trip to nationals
This feat came only after a drawn-out match with No. 12 Baker University on Nov. 8. The teams tied at 1-1 through overtime, and after winning a penalty kick shootout 7-6, MNU earned an automatic qualification to the national tournament.
Before the Pioneers had a chance to punch its ticket to nationals, head coach Skelly Kellar said that the team had a main goal - which it has now been accomplished.
“When I first took over the program the team had only been in the conference playoffs one time in the last 11 years,” Kellar said. “Our whole goal is to get to the conference playoffs… past the semifinals, [and play in] the finals to give us a chance to go to nationals.”
Since Kellar became the head coach, the team had advanced to the semifinals for the past three years but had not advanced to the conference championship game until this year’s playoff win over Baker. This victory allowed the team to advance to the conference title match. Though the team has achieved a historic season for the program, the players are still shooting for postseason success. According to Kellar, the team does very well in many areas but still needs to work on the details.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Kellar said. “I think our possession is really good. I think we keep the ball for long stretches of time. We do a good job of utilizing all of the field,” Kellar said. “I still think if we could improve on something, it’s being more clinical in front of the goal.”
Kellar said that one of the things that makes the team unique and successful is the great leadership displayed by the seniors. This year’s seniors will be Kellar’s first group that he has coached for their entire careers at MNU.
On both sides of the ball, the players share the same goals and expectations for the remainder of the postseason. Senior forward Denise Dantzler said that she thinks that the team has the unique ability to be able to play anyone and rise to meet any level of competition.
“We have so many different ways that we can score,” Dantzler said. “I think that’s what defines a good team: not relying on a star player.”
Sophomore defender Alexa Hyzdu said the team’s athleticism and the ability to come together as one unit on and off the field is what sets them apart from the rest.
“We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of athletic people that can get the job done,” Hyzdu said. “If everyone’s working hard and working together it’s very evident that we can succeed.”
Hyzdu said that the team most needs to improve on its consistency and that the team does not always live up to its potential. Dantzler argued that the team most needed to improve in its seriousness.
“I don’t think we train as hard as we [should] or we train too hard,” Dantzler said. “We need a healthy medium. Just to keep it consistent with how we approach practice and training.”
Junior left wing Steffi Krohn said the team must “learn to be more dangerous in the front [of the goal]. We also need to make sure we come in fit and ready for nationals physically as well as mentally.”
The Pioneers now look forward to nationals and a chance to continue to achieve new milestones for the program. The Pioneers will face Reinhardt University on Nov. 19 in Waleska, Georgia. This game in the opening round of the national championship tournament will determine whether or not the team will advance to Orange Beach, Alabama to continue in tournament play.
Carlos Guzman- More by this author
Carlos Guzman ('19) is from Overland Park, Kansas and is the Sports editor for The Trailblazer. He is a biology major with an emphasis in pre-medicine and is also pursuing a minor degree in Youth and Family Ministry. Carlos is also on the cross country and track and field team.