Women’s soccer looks to fight through OVC season

Tom O’Connor, Women's Soccer Reporter

Eastern head coach Jake Plant knew both the Panthers and Skyhawks would have their moments, but he also felt assured that whoever made the most of these triumphs would ultimately win the match.

He can get a hunch early on as to whether his team will be able to put the ball in the other team’s net or, conversely, sit back as it lands into their own.

A good sequence followed by a bad one is just inevitable. Those are simply the dynamics of the game of soccer: The good stretches of the match must dampen the unavoidable bad ones.

In the end, though, it swung pretty evenly between the two teams.

“We could be having our worst day ever, and we’ll have our 10-or-15-minute phase where we look good,” Plant said. “We could be having our best day ever, and the opponent will get their 15 minutes. It’s really about what you do as a team in those moments that you have.”

When the Panthers continue conference play at home this weekend, and they challenge two surefire playoff teams, the burden will be on the Panthers to arrest the momentum and carry it off to victory.

The Panthers will split a pair of conference matches between Lakeside Field, the sight of Friday’s match against Eastern Kentucky, and then Nashville to play Belmont Sunday.

In the field of pretenders and contenders in the Ohio Valley Conference, there can be no denying that some teams, the likes of which are few and far between, cope with the realities of an incoming freshman class and an outgoing senior class with relative ease.

Recruitment may very well be one of the more arcane processes in college athletics, and only a select few manage to be relevant game to game, season to season.

Eastern Kentucky and Belmont have been, as of late, two such teams.

Although there may not be an easy opponent in the Ohio valley Conference, according to Plant, Eastern Kentucky and Belmont own a cache of physically gifted soccer players. 

The strengths and weaknesses of the Colonels are antithetical to those that have constricted the Panthers.

Despite their relatively average points per game rate, Eastern Kentucky has created more shots per match than just about every other OVC team, a testament to the offensive firepower that ushered in a victory in its first conference match of the season.

Compared to other conference teams, Eastern is below average in both shots and points per match.

“We just need to be more clinical in front of the goal,” Plant said. “We need to make sure that we defend well for 90 minutes because if you don’t in Division I you will concede goals, no matter how good you are.”

For Eastern Kentucky, senior Marian Wolski and sophomore Baylee Lanter stand out as offensive tacticians for the Colonels this season, positioning themselves as top 10 players in terms of shot production.

Yet, the Panthers have been a shrewd team defensively, unlike the Colonels who rank next-to-last in saves and goals allowed.

Senior goalkeeper Sara Teteak has been sentient of the threats posed by opposing offenses, with an understanding of the mechanics behind how they will attack on drives to the net.

“She has always had the ability to make saves, but going from sort of a young freshman coming in to a really grown up woman with a massive amount of confidence in herself, I think that’s the most impressive thing that I have seen in her,” Plant said. “She has grown in confidence. I think her confidence comes from her preparation, her confidence comes from her believing in herself and I think that’s her best weapon.”

Belmont, meanwhile, will be hunting for its first conference win.

The Bruins, already with two conference losses through just as many games, aggregated a total of six losses in the first few months of the season. The Panthers are looking for a similar breakthrough in their own season.

“We always make sure these girls are ready for conference,” Plant said. “It’s what we take pride in. We know we want to go to the conference tournament and that’s how, if we are going to the national tournament, it’s going to be through the OVC tournament and that large bid.”

 

Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]