The goal of the SDSU women’s soccer (11-4-2, 6-1-0) team has been to get better and better every day, and the fruits of their continuing labors were on display Sunday as they defeated Fort Wayne (6-11-1, 3-3-1) 3-0 to send Caylee Costello, Megan Kingston, Stacy Guijarro, and Darci Miller away winners of their last home game.
Had their resolve been weaker, the team could have given in when they struggled to score in their opening games, when they lost several key players to injuries during conference play, or after they were shutout 4-0 by Denver a week ago, but instead, they continued to fight and pushed themselves to get better. Though head coach Lang Wedemeyer was hesitant to call Sunday’s victory their best game, he was very pleased.
“It certainly was one of our better games for sure,” Wedemeyer said. “I think we played a pretty solid game beginning to end and were able to finish, and I think that was the difference.”
As has become typical with the team, the Jacks played with the same poise and determination that led them to finish second in the Summit League standings. Though the Jacks offense faced very strong winds in the first half, up to 50 mph, their defense was solid and they controlled the ball for much of the half, before beginning their scoring in the 28th minute, when Shelby Raper broke free at her wing position and found Kingston coming up the middle of the field for the first goal of the game.
“I think it was incredibly important to get that goal into the wind in the first half,” Wedemeyer said. “I really think it gave us a lot of confidence going into the second half.”
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Megan Kingston who was seemingly around the ball continuously slipped the ball ahead to McKenzie Wolf, who knocked it past the outstretched arms of Fort Wayne goalie Sam Pavlika for the score. On Monday, the Summit League named Wolf defensive player of the week.
If Wolf’s goal didn’t put the dagger into a Fort Wayne team that struggled all day to create offense against the stingy Jackrabbit defense, then Madison Yueill sealed the victory in the 85th minute when she drove though the center of the Fort Wayne defense to score the Jacks’ third goal of the game.
“It was the perfect way to end on Fishback,” Kingston said. “I’m so excited. It was so nice just to be here, and the last game to be home. To get a goal and an assist and have all my teammates around me – it’s just the perfect ending.”
Throughout the game, Fort Wayne managed a meager five shots, on which goalie Nicole Inskeep needed to make only a single save. SDSU fared much better, making 13 shots, on which Pavlika made six saves.
“I think that moving Delaney Ratcliffe to the center back in place of Dani Patterson who’s out really helped,” Wedemeyer said. “I think she played a solid game and seamlessly went into that role.”
The Summit League tournament will begin next Friday in Fort Wayne when the second-seeded Jackrabbits will face third-seeded North Dakota State (8-9-0, 4-3-0), a team whom they beat in a 1-0 thriller at Fishback Soccer Park when Costello knocked in the game winner in the 76th minute. Also playing will be the top-seeded University of Denver (16-1-1, 7-0-0) and fourth-seeded Fort Wayne. The winners of the two games will advance to the conference championship on Sunday where they will compete for a trip to the College Cup. SDSU’s only visit to the College Cup came in 2008 when they upset the University of Colorado in the first round.
“We’re going to practice this week and get ready for it,” Kingston said. “We’re excited and we’re just ready to keep pushing because it’s not over yet. We want that title at the end. … As seniors, it’s important for us to be role models and show that we need to push it all the way to the end, so just hard practices, going hard, and not letting the foot off the pedal.”