MILWAUKEE - Coming off a spectacular 2016 season, the MSOE women's soccer knew that it had a lot of work to do to meet expectations heading into 2017.
Head coach Rolf Zersen did not bother with expectations, rather looking to grow the program in the right direction. Considering where he has taken MSOE Women's Soccer, he's earned the benefit of the doubt.
The prevailing school of thought for Zersen has been that to be the best, you have to play the best. To that end, he has steadily raised the level of competition for the Raiders in the non-league season. The team has responded with several wins over nationally-ranked competition in recent years, but he may have outdone himself in 2017.
Despite losing 11 seniors last season, MSOE has a non-conference slate that includes four NCAA Tournament teams from last season, as well as four more that have been to the national tournament within the last four seasons.
The Raiders knew it would be tough coming in and the opposition did not disappoint. Chicago has been ranked No. 1 in the nation the last couple weeks. UW-Whitewater was No. 13 when it played MSOE (now No. 18), and UW-La Crosse is receiving national votes. All told, the nine teams have combined for a 77-29-8 record through this past weekend, good enough for a .711 winning percentage.
While the competition has been stiff, the Raiders have battled hard in every game. They've regularly started as many as six freshmen and came away with a pair of wins—over defending Midwest Conference Champion Knox and MWC power Lake Forest, as well as a raised level of competition.
There was a bit of a hangover as NACC play started Sept. 27 against Dominican in a rematch of the 2016 NACC Championship game. The Stars came away with the 3-1 victory, but MSOE overcame some early goals to play its way back into the match and controlled momentum for large stretches.
The Raiders then built on that momentum and have now won three-straight games. Most importantly, goals have started to come as they've scored 18 goals in that time.
With the goals, confidence is growing.
Zersen's young roster is starting to show some of its offensive potential as freshman Brooke Zidek has now scored in four-straight games and is one of three players with a team-high five goals on the year. Freshman Nora Adkins has also scored five times and freshman Gracie Horton is emerging as an offensive catalyst in the offensive third with four goals and three assists.
All through the growing pains, there has been strong leadership from the seniors to keep the team heading in the right direction on course.
The lion's share of the league schedule remains, including three matches this week, so the team knows that its work is just getting started. If the Raiders are to achieve their goal of a third-straight NCAA Tournament, they must build on the early season and use that experience to power forward.
If the last three games are any indication, the team is battle-tested and up for the task.
Elsewhere Around MSOE Athletics…
- Women's Tennis clinched the #3 seed in the NACC Tournament with a win at Lakeland Saturday. The Raiders and #6 Muskies will have a rematch in the NACC First Round April 30.
- Men's Soccer did not allow a goal in going 2-0 last week with a 5-0 win at Marian Wednesday and 1-0 home victory over WLC Saturday.
- Women's Volleyball swept Rockford Friday and nearly knocked off Edgewood Saturday, falling in five sets. The Raiders had taken a 2-0 lead in the match with EC.
- Rowing posted a strong showing at the Head of the Rock Regatta Sunday, most notably taking third in the 22-boat Collegiate Varsity 4.
- Men's and Women's Cross Country each finished sixth out of eight non-Division I teams at the Lucian Rosa Invitational.
Coming Up This Week...
- Men's Soccer (8-3, W3) looks to continue its three-game win streak at Concordia Chicago Wednesday and against Benedictine Saturday.
- Saturday's Men's Soccer game will feature the top two active scorers in the nation in MSOE's Braden Andryk (66g, 163p) and Benedictine's Nick Kapetanos (69g, 172p).
- Women's Soccer (3-7, W1) is at home against Marian Wednesday and Wisconsin Lutheran Saturday.
- Women's Volleyball (9-12, L1) have a home weekend of action, hosting Rockford Friday and Edgewood Saturday.
- Cross Country goes to the La Rosa Invitational Saturday.
- Rowing is in action for the second-straight Sunday, this time at the Head of the Rock Regatta.
|Monday||Women's Soccer||@ Edgewood*||7:00 PM||Video | Live stats|
|Wednesday||Men's Soccer||@ Concordia Chicago*||4:00 PM||Video | Live stats|
|Wednesday||Women's Soccer||Concordia Chicago*||7:00 PM||Video | Live stats|
|Friday||Women's Volleyball||@ Concordia Chicago*||7:00 PM||Video | Live stats|
|Saturday||Cross Country (M/W)||@ Private College Championships||11:00 AM|
|Saturday||Men's Soccer||Benedictine*||1:00 PM||Video | Live stats|
|Saturday||Women's Soccer||Benedictine*||4:00 PM||Video | Live stats|
|Saturday||Women's Volleyball||@ Dominican*||6:00 PM||Video | Live stats|
|* Conference Contest | Home Contests in BOLD|