The No. 2-seeded Minnesota State women’s soccer team is ready to roll into the NCAA Division-II Soccer Tournament, starting this upcoming weekend. The Mavericks earned a first-round bye in the tournament, going 16-3-2 overall and 12-2-1 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) for the season.
The Mavericks were able to go undefeated (3-0) in the NSIC Tournament last weekend and capture their fifth NSIC Championship in their respective history. Not only did they win all three matches during the tournament, but they all came way of the shutout. Minnesota State currently has recorded the third-most shutouts this season in all of NCAA Division-II, with 16 goose eggs. That is also the best amongst NSIC teams.
“I’m extremely proud of our team,” head coach Brian Bahl said after their NSIC championship victory over Augustana. “We’ve come a long way from the past six weeks or so and to fight and grind the way out we had to really shows a lot about us.”
No. 15 ranked MNSU has not lost a match since Oct. 1 against Bemidji State and ever since that game they have outscored their opponents 32-4. Between freshman Ryann Rydeen, red-shirted sophomore Taylor Livermore, and red-shirted freshman Alexa Rabune, all three goalkeepers have given up only 13 goals in 21 games. Couple that with superb defense and the Mavericks are one tough team to get the ball in the net against.
“I think the biggest thing is communication,” sophomore defender Abby Hasuken said to Minnesota State Athletics after the NSIC Championship. “Also, just backing each other up and we always have each other’s backs.”
Hausken was named the 2016 NSIC Women’s Soccer Tournament MVP for her outstanding play in the team’s three shutout wins. She played all 180 minutes and recorded one assist during the weekend.
The Mavericks will look to continue their dominance on offense as well. MNSU led the NSIC in goals per match (2.38), total shots (443), and shots on goal (208). Sophomore forward Morgan Cottew leads Minnesota State in goals (15) and points (36) this season. Cottew will be someone to lean on when the Mavericks need the offense to get rolling as they begin NCAA Division-II Tournament play. She is ranked in the top-20 in both goals and points in all of NCAA Division-II. Freshmen Alesha Duccini and Taylor Kenealy have been regular contributors for the Mavericks as well on offense, as they have combined to score 13 goals and 11 assists for 37 points.
The team has an abundance of youth this season, which will pay off for years to come. Along with the youth comes strong, veteran leadership in a couple of seniors. Midfielders Kiana Nickel and Dana Savino are playing in their final seasons at Minnesota State and each of them have made their mark in the school’s history. Nickel became the fifth student-athlete in the program’s history to reach the 100-point milestone. She also is one career assist away (31) from tying the program record, which is currently held by Amanda Burrows (1998-2001) and Brianne West (2009-2012), according to Minnesota State’s athletic page. Savino is entering the tournament playing the ninth most games in the program’s history (84) and is in the top-ten in minutes played (5,006), according to Minnesota State’s athletic page.
The Mavericks will look to improve their all-time NCAA Tournament record of 6-9-3 in 2016. Last season, they made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Central Missouri, 1-0. They will play the winner of the first-round match-up between the Harding Bisons (11-6-2) and the Fort Hays State Tigers (14-4-2). Minnesota State will play host to either team on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. at The Pitch.