Oct. 14, 2009
Bearcats Rule the Pitch in 2009
Charlie Slenker, Maryville Daily Forum
Maryville, Mo. -
They're very good.
And they've got the potential to be the best ... the best Northwest has ever seen at any rate.
The Northwest Missouri State soccer women have the program on the verge of its best season ever. Sitting third in the conference with seven games left in the season, the Bearcats (9-2-1, 5-3-1 MIAA) are one win away from the program high of 10 set in 2008. Odds are that number will be shattered by season's end.
Bearcats coach Tracy Hoza said there's a lot of reasons the Bearcats are so good this season.
"It's a mixture of very good players, and very determined players and great leadership," Hoza said. "We have a lot of seniors on the field."
There are eight seniors on the team including some of the most decorated players Northwest has ever had. There's forward Andrea Tritz, a transfer, who has the most game-winning goals in program history and is tied for second for most goals (13). Then there's senior keeper Kira Lazenby. Lazenby already holds the record for career shutouts (15) and it keeps adding up. She's also holding onto the best save percentage (.858) in program history. They are joined by seniors like Shannon FitzGerald and Jessica Braun who have been with the program for five years.
"These guys are determined to do well and want significant growth for the program," Hoza said. "They are great players to work with."
Lazenby is a good keeper, but Hoza said a lot of her success is thanks to the group of players in front of her.
"We have a group, not only are they good players but they combine well together and work well together," Hoza said.
Braun, Jacque Dudovesh, Amanda Olah, Merydeth Cummings and Kate Horvat are all integral in Northwest's seven shutouts so far this season. Hoza said it's because of how well all the players work together.
"They have a great relationship with each other on the field and off the field as well," Hoza said.
It isn't just the starters that are raising the Bearcats to new heights this season. Hoza said she can freely substitute bench players into the game and not fear a drop in performance.
"Everybody has a role on the team," Hoza said. "We have some key players that will come off the bench. They are actually very, very good players."
Hoza said it's great to have that confidence and versatility in a game.
"If either a player wasn't playing up to their potential or was just having a tough time against an opponent, we could switch in a player that could completely change the game around for us," Hoza said. "Everybody has the potential to do that this year."
The Bearcats will likely need everyone's hope to reach the playoffs this season. Northwest is currently skirting the top 9 in the regional rankings. The top 6 make it into the postseason. Hoza said making that top 6 starts with beating Truman ... the MIAA's top team. It's something the Bearcats have never done before. Northwest is 0-19 all time against the Bulldogs.
"You've got to beat the top teams if you want to get in the top six in the region," Hoza said. "Our conference pretty much dominated the region last year. That's not the same case this year.
"We have to win against all the teams in our conference if we want to get into the top six."
The Bearcats have a chance to put a mark in the win column against Truman at 3 p.m. Thursday in Kirksville, Mo.
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Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
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