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ISU Women's Soccer: Gaining Momentum

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The Bengals in action at home

An opinion piece: Are the Bengals finding some form?

Back in September, the ISU Women's soccer players were struggling to find their shooting boots. In their first ten games, the Bengals failed to mesh as a team and suffered nine defeats, recording just one draw and zero wins. However, before conference play started, I suggested that Head Coach Debs Brereton should look beyond the statistics and find causes for optimism. The Bengals were showing glimpses of their full potential and I believed that a couple of positive results could shift the balance of momentum.

Now, with just two games remaining before the kick-off of the Big Sky Tournament, I evaluate my predictions and consider the Bengals chances in the post-season.

Regular Big Sky Conference play got off to a rocky start for the Bengals. Falling 3-1 to Eastern Washington, 1-0 to Idaho, and 3-0 to Weber State, the team struggled to get out of a rut of bad form. Arguably, their weakness was not their defense but their inability to score enough goals. The Bengals only scored four goals in the ten games that preceded conference play.

Their fortunes changed when they travelled to Cedar City to play Southern Utah. In the first half, the Bengals battled hard but conceded an early goal in the 26th minute. However, ISU showed an abundance of character, grit, and determination, fighting back to score three times inside 10 minutes to lead 3-1 with 20-minutes left to play. Southern Utah tried to rally and find a way back into the game, scoring in the 83rd minute, but the Bengals held on to claim their first victory of the season.

At this point, I was feeling quite smug about my predictions. I expected that ISU would gain enormous confidence from their first victory and use it as a platform to push forward and climb the conference standings. However, just a few days after their victory over Southern Utah, ISU faced an in-form Northern Arizona University (NAU). ISU fell 2-0.

Personally, I felt that ISU’s response to their defeat to NAU would define their season. Would they slip back into their old form or would they try to regain some of their momentum? This important, season defining game, came against Portland State.

Highly motivated, the Bengals started the game against Portland State very aggressively. Their early pressure was rewarded with goals in both the 29th and 43rd minutes. ISU defended strongly in the second half to claim their second win of the campaign. At the end of the game, the emotion was clear to see, with Coach Brereton remarking that "It was a marvelous performance from our team”. The result represented ISU’s first win over Portland State since the 2016 season.

Currently, the Bengals have two tough games remaining before the start of the Big Sky Tournament. The first game is against Northern Colorado (2nd in the conference standings) and the second is against Montana (3rd in the conference standings).

If the Bengals can muster a draw or win in either of these games, their momentum might snowball, and we might start dreaming of success in the conference tournament.