NEW ULM - The Martin Luther College women's soccer team knew it was in for a tough test playing its homecoming match against Upper Midwest Athletic Conference leader University of Minnesota, Morris on Thursday.
The Knights ended up with a 1-0 loss in the match, but still came out of the contest feeling that they had played a mostly even contest with the Cougars.
"You never want to lose, but I'm thrilled at this loss, because it's a victory for us, in this sense - they scored on kind of a fluke corner kick, and we pressed them the whole game," MLC head coach Jeff Shone said. "We had prepared, we changed our formation for this game, and our girls just did what they needed to do, they played solid soccer."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Martin Luther College’s Alison Filter (1) heads the ball away from Ally Heida (11) of the University of Minnesota, Morris during the first half Thursday at MLC in New Ulm.
Morris scored just 8:25 into the game, after which the Knights buckled down on defense, helped by a fine performance in net by Keely Keese.
"The coach from Morris complimented Keely on the fine play that she put forth today," Schone said. "I have to say that she was really a key factor in keeping us tied up virtually in this game. You discount the one fluke goal, it's a 0-0 game."
The Cougars' goal was scored when Zoe Bergstrom floated a corner kick from the left side all the way over her teammate at the near post - whom Keese was contesting with for the ball. The ball bounced once right in front of an open net, where Kelsi Kolle got just enough of her head onto it in a one-on-one contest with an MLC defender to send it into the goal.
Hannah Mattek had MLC's best scoring chance of the game 25 minutes into the contest. Mattek gathered the ball on a misplay by Morris goalkeeper Rikki Beaver, needing only a well-placed lob to send the ball over Beaver and into an open net, but her shot bounced off the top of the crossbar.
Five minutes before halftime, Bethany Schultz and two other Knights attackers set up another prime scoring chance for the home side, but Schultz's shot rolled harmlessly in front of the net and out of reach of MLC's other two attackers.
The second half saw Morris constantly on the attack, with the Knights unable to break through for a shot on net of their own.
Keely made four of her five saves in the second half, including reaching up to grab a shot in the top-left corner of the net that appeared destined to go in with 22:50 remaining in the match.
"I personally feel this is the best game that we've played all season, particularly against a team the caliber of University of Minnesota, Morris, which is one of the top teams in our conference," Schone said. "We made them look not so fearsome, I'm really pleased by the way our girls played."
Morris held an 18-2 advantage in total shots during the contest and also had a 13-1 advantage in corner kicks.
The Cougars improved to 9-3 overall and 8-1 in UMAC action with the win, while the Knights fell to 4-8 overall and 3-5 in the conference.
MLC will travel to play Crown College on Saturday and will also be on the road for a crucial match-up against Bethany Lutheran on Tuesday.
"That's a key game for us," Schone said. "I think [Thursday's] game really positions us well for the next couple of weekends."