Last season, the Minnesota State University, Mankato women’s soccer team finished with a 16-3-3 mark, setting them up nicely for a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament win and giving them a bid for the NCAA Tournament. Now the team has received the number-one spot on the NSIC’s preseason coaches poll, gathering 11 first place votes to get the top spot.
Returning to the squad is Morgan Cottew, who racked up 15 goals and 36 points last season as a junior and will keep the offense at top speed with her return for her senior campaign, another key returner is Abby Hausken, who started 21 games last season and ranked second in minutes with 1,804.
The expectations for the incumbent NSIC champions was high heading into the exhibition games, with the University of Northern Iowa the first game up on August 15. The offense of the Mavericks popped the Division-I program in the mouth, scoring two goals in the opening 45 minutes of play and leading Northern Iowa 2-1, with scores coming from Julia Zach and Lauren Kizlik. UNI did storm back to make it a 2-2 game late, but the Mavericks played exceptional, taking a draw in the first game back.
Next up was St. Catherine University, on August 23. This was easy pickings for the Mavericks offense with a stifling 3-0 win that was engaged by Cottew, Kizlik and Taylor Kenealy. The offensive dominance was a clear advantage for the Mavs, something they will need if they want another late-season push.
Game three of the exhibition round up was against Gustavus on August 25. The rain kept the game mercifully short for Gustavus, with the Mavs putting up a 3-0 lead yet again. Cottew was again a scoring factor, this time joined by Jenny Hoerter and Molly Sarafolean. The consistency of the Maverick offense should be the key in the upcoming season, with MSU proving against an array of talent that they have playmakers and scorers all over the roster.
“I think we were just looking for progress from the last time out,” said head coach Brian Bahl on the exhibition performances. “Seeing our speed of play, I love getting some more players experience, continuing to increase our depth, but getting certain groups of players together and getting them used to the pace of the game and seeing what they can do together both in our attack and making sure we are organized defensively. I think overall we took steps forward; we still have a long way to go but I think we definitely saw steps forward.”
The season opener is against an out-of-conference opponent, the Wisconsin-Parkside Rangers on September 2. The home game should be a win to ease into the season, with the Rangers on the road after going 0-2-1 in their out-of-conference games last season and 0-2-0 on the road in non-conference games.
The Mavericks can flex with a dominate win over the Rangers to kick off the season on a victorious note, before moving on to the conference schedule later in the month.