At five and six wins respectively, after seamlessly winning each match with few apparent defects, Southeast Missouri and Murray State should be more confident than all other Ohio Valley Conference teams going into the weekend.
Each team could quite feasibly escape the remaining matches unscathed.
For starters, there will be such reunion of the Redhawks and Racers before the end of the season, so any indication as to which team, on the surface, would appear to pose the best chance of hoisting the conference trophy is reliant upon relatively dated evidence.
The Racers might as well open the door to a championship and hang a “Do not disturb sign” on the handle, as no other team can, by any means, unlock the same pathway to an undefeated postseason.
When the Redhawks and Racers met a few weeks ago, Southeast Missouri had just two shots on goal to Murray State’s 16, which seems rather low, even for a team that is only average when it comes to shots per game compared to other conference teams.
Southeast Missouri has been bedeviled by an inconsistent offensive attack, despite what might arguably be deemed a top three offense in the OVC.
Their scoring rate of 1.86 goals per match trails Southern Illinois Edwardsville and, no surprises here, Murray State is the only conference team to bear the distinction of being a top 30 scoring team in the NCAA.
And the Racers own the rights to more than just an unassailable offensive unit, outshining conference opponents with the finest defense, not least because of goalie Jasmine Rosell.
Rosell, who has buttressed the Racers with the second-most remarkable save percentage, finished with two saves against Southeast Missouri, as the Murray State defenders insulated her from forwards Cassidi Tomsu and Hailey Block.
Additionally, it was no mistake that the Redhawks encountered as much turbulence as they did against Murray State, headlined by three of the top goal scorers in senior Miyah Watford, junior Rebecca Kubin and sophomore Abby Jones.
If the Redhawks were to break from the brand of soccer they have played over the duration of their four-game winning streak, significant as far as the offense’s efficiency is concerned, the Racers could easily slide into the one seed over the final three matches.
Notwithstanding the threat engendered by the Racers, the Redhawks have been patiently productive.
Even as Southern Illinois Edwardsville, Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State outshot the Redhawks forwards, Southeast Missouri made sure that the scoring drives they did go on mattered.
This offensive competence was by no means a deviation from the mean. Tennessee Tech and Tennessee-Martin, teams that are on the precipice of securing admittance to the playoffs, will not be able to simply sidestep Southeast Missouri before the tournament begins.
The Redhawks demonstrated their offensive prowess in each match outside of the blowout loss to Murray State, and an occasional slip up on the road is an ineluctable part of any sport.
But the Racers are not going anywhere.
Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]