Sept. 22, 2011
In the crossbars with Kelsey Adams
The fit was perfect for Northwest Missouri State sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Adams.
Adams played soccer at Savannah High School, which is only 30 miles away from Maryville. She was a three-time all-district goalie for a program that was only five or six years old.
Northwest, a relatively young program, was in need of a goalkeeper last season.
Coach Tracy Hoza heard about Adams and decided to take a look when Savannah played Maryville High School.
"She looked like she had so much talent," Hoza said. "She liked Northwest and wanted to come to school here. It was a good fit."
Adams was part of a freshman class brought in to help the Bearcats continue their climb to the upper half of the MIAA.
With so much youth on last year's squad, Northwest went through some growing pains, going 3-10-5.
But Adams and the rest of the freshman class gained valuable experience.
It is already showing. Northwest is off to a 3-1-2 start and are coming off two great games in which the Bearcats played to a 0-0 tie at Truman and defeated Southwest Baptist 2-0 on Sept. 17.
"It was a great feeling," Adams said of the back-to-back shutouts. "It's a great way to start off a season. We have our goals set high."
Those two games illustrate just how far these young Bearcats have progressed in one season. A year ago, Northwest lost 1-0 to Truman and 3-2 to Southwest Baptist in September.
"We are a very young team," Hoza said. "We typically falter and fall against Truman. To not do that this year is significant, and then to turn around and win against SBU was big for us. It's a good start for us and good for our players' confidence as well."
It helps to have a goalkeeper who is going to stop shots. It gives the midfielders and forwards the confidence to push forward and try to score.
"She has played amazing," said freshman midfielder Jonna Welch. "It is awesome to play with such a good goalie. I never had an opportunity to do that. I'm really enjoying it."
Welch, a starter, is part of a 7-player freshman class. The new freshman class has plenty of help to guide them through the rigors of college soccer.
For one, there is the sophomore class that has just gone through what they are going through now.
Some of the things Adams learned last year were the Bearcats way of play and the system of other teams.
"Every team is different," she said. "You have to learn how to work with your teammates and work together. It was different. I had never played with anyone on this team before."
A bond grew between last year's freshmen and the returners. Now they are all available to help the newcomers. Northwest has five seniors, some of whom have experienced the greatest season in the program's history in 2009.
"They have helped a lot," Welch said. "We have a Bearcat buddy system in which the upperclassmen are paired with us. It is really nice because they help us understand what it was like. I think it has helped the team chemistry a lot."
The Bearcats face a stern test 4 p.m. today when No. 15 Central Missouri travels to Maryville for a contest that doesn't count in the conference standings.
"We got momentum going into this game," Hoza said. "They got momentum. They are coming off two good wins. We are coming off a tie and a good win. It will be a great match for us."
Central Missouri is 5-1 overall and has yet to play a conference game. In that sense, Northwest is ahead of the Jennies. The Bearcats are currently in a tie for first place with Washburn at 1-0.
Sure, it is very early in the season with the bulk of conference playing looming next month.
"We knew we were more talented than last year and had more depth," Hoza said. "We had a lot to work on in preseason. We just had to keep telling them that we can be better. With this team, every time we do something, they do it better than the groups before."
Adams is one example of it. She credits team togetherness for the good start.
"I feel like we have a good group that works really well together," Adams said. "We all want to win. We don't want to repeat last season so we are all working hard every day trying to get better."
It's doubtful you will ever see Adams yell at a teammate if several balls gets by the defenders and she has to make a stop.
"No. I like to encourage people," she said. "If there are things that need to be addressed, I will address them. Most of the time you try to encourage everybody and point out the good things."
Spoken like a true leader.
"Kelsey is probably one of the most positive players you come across," Hoza said. "One of the biggest thing is her confidence is up and confidence comes with experience. She's more vocal on the field. She makes quicker and better decisions than she did last year."
The result is the Bearcats have already won as many games as they did last year and they are only six games into the season, and today they face a nationally ranked opponent.
"It's important. It should be a good game. I'm looking forward to it," Adams said.
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