Column: Women’s soccer team’s season-opening loss could have been worse

Oscar Rzodkiewicz, Assistant Sports Editor

 

Dillan Schorfheide | The Daily Eastern News
Eva Munoz winds up to deliver a free kick in Eastern’s 1-1 tie against Northern Illinois on August 16th at Lakeside Field.

Ball State essentially turned its women’s soccer match against Eastern into a baseball score, 6-0, by the end of the contest.

The Cardinals controlled the ball for a majority of the first half and ended up leading 2-0 after 45 minutes as the ESPN+ broadcast team discussed how the Panthers are defensive-oriented and tend to struggle scoring.

That is when the wheels fell off, and Eastern allowed four goals in the second half—one in just 32 seconds—and finally lost by a half-dozen.

Last season, the Panthers’ opponents scored 1.20 goals per game, a low number headlined by goalkeeper Sara Teteak, who boasted a .94 goals against average.

Maybe this is a serious red flag for the rest of the season, and the Panthers should be worried about their offensive output.

On the other hand, this is one game against a team at the top of its conference that does not affect Eastern’s OVC tournament hopes and seeding.

Perhaps this is more like sticking your toes in the water and not being ready for how cold it is.

Ball State was selected to finish second in the Mid-American Conference in the conference’s preseason poll this offseason.

Ball State lost only three games in 20 matches last season.

Ball State went to penalty kicks in the MAC Championship in 2018.

The Panthers were definitely not playing a team at the bottom of its conference.

This is not to say that Eastern will not face teams as talented as Ball State, but it does allow the squad to get a peek into the life of going up against a tough opponent.

That could turn out to be important considering the Panthers’ next challenge is nothing to sneeze at.

Friday at 7 p.m., Eastern heads back on the road to face Missouri-Kansas City.

The Roos posted a 16-5 overall record and a 7-1 conference clip in 2018, and they started the year 2-0.

If Eastern drops another game by a score as rough as the one against Ball State, there is some cause for concern.

But if the Panthers are able to get a win or even just put up a tougher fight, in terms of ball possession, maybe game one was just a flop.

Eastern, admittedly, tended to keep games low-scoring last year, posting just 18 goals while allowing only 24 past the net in 20 matches.

Last season, Eastern only scored .90 goasl per game, a clear deficit compared to opponents’ 1.20.

That defensive style of play can be effective, but once a team like Ball State is able to open up a game, the Panthers need to stay away from the deer in the headlights mentality.

In turn, maybe being put in that position against Ball State was the perfect learning situation.

A non-conference loss does not affect the team in the gamet of the OVC, and since it took place so early in the season, and with a week-long turnaround for the next match, Eastern will have plenty of time to evaluate the loss and pick it apart.

Head coach Jake Plant even said, after the loss, that the mistakes in the loss are fixable, and that the game was a good wake-up call for the program.

There is no good 6-0 loss, but if it is going to happen, now might be the best time.

Oscar Rzodkiewicz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]