Junior Julia Zach’s lone goal was all the offense needed Wednesday evening, as the No. 13 Minnesota State Mavericks defeated the Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bears 1-0.
The win moves Minnesota State to 7-1-0 overall, and 5-0-0 against the tough Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC). The Mavericks are winners of five straight heading into the weekend. The Golden Bears drop to 5-2-1 overall, and 3-1-1 in the NSIC.
“Concordia [St. Paul] was a good challenge and we knew they would be,” head coach Brian Bahl said after the match. “The NSIC is tough and we have to be ready to go every game.”
The game was heavily contested between both teams, as great defensive play was on display at The Pitch Wednesday. Minnesota State constantly had the ball in the Golden Bears’ zone throughout the first half, firing 12 shots compared to Concordia-St. Paul’s three.
Coming into the match, the Mavericks had only let up two goals all season, both of them coming in their only loss to No. 14 Grand Valley State. Concordia-St. Paul could not get any flow to their offense going early on, and it cost them. The Mavericks finally broke the 0-0 tie at the 39:44 mark of the first half, as sophomore Taylor Kenealy skipped a pass across the middle for Zach, who booted the ball into the back of the net to put the home team up, 1-0. The assist was Kenealy’s first of the season and Zach’s goal was her second for the 2017 campaign.
“We were keeping really good possession the whole game,” Julia Zach said after the game. “Kenealy had a great touch pass to me so I found the opening and took the shot.”
The second half was not as dominant for the Mavericks, as they only outshot the Golden Bears 5-3. For most of the second half, the ball was hovering around goalkeeper Taylor Livermore and the Minnesota State zone. The Mavericks remained rock solid on defense, eliminating any opportunity for their opponent to score.
Minnesota State had a breakaway opportunity at the 26:51 mark of the second half, as junior Morgan Cottew and senior Lexi Pszanka had a two-on-one chance. The ball ended up in the back of the net of the foot of Cottew, yet the play was called back on a questionable off-sides call.
The Golden Bears may have had their best chance at tying the game at the 11:32 mark, as Concordia-St. Paul’s Carly Simonian kicked a ball that looked as if it was going to go over Livermore’s head into the net. The goalkeeper showed terrific athleticism, leaping and snagging the shot attempt from the air. The Mavericks outshot the Golden Bears for the game, 17-6.
The shutout marks the seventh of the season for the Mavericks. The squad has the sixth-best goals-against average in all of NCAA Division-II.
“It’s all coming together. We are making strides each game and getting better,” Bahl said. “We have some big games coming up; we have another two this weekend so we’re looking forward to those contests.”
The Mavericks will stay home at The Pitch this weekend, as they take on Minnesota-Crookston (0-7) on Friday, Sept. 29 and Bemidji State (7-0) on Sunday, Oct. 1. Both start times are scheduled for 1:00 p.m.