Soccer finds its groove in return to Morstad Field
What do P. Diddy and the Augustana soccer team have in common? Each profited from coming home.
After winning just one of their first five games—all on the road—the Vikings have righted the ship by winning five straight, including three home games by a combined score of 9-1.
“We’re playing a lot better,” senior defender Courtney Allen said. “We’ve started to click as a team and come together, and our chemistry’s been building.”
That building nearly crumbled at the hands of an upset-minded Northern State team on Sunday.
The Wolves entered the matchup with a 2-4 conference record but held a 1-0 lead deep into the second half.
With 15 minutes left, sophomore midfielder Rebecca Gasper converted off an assist from senior midfielder Emily Jacobson to tie the game.
Two minutes into overtime, sophomore forward Julie Plonsky ended the game by scoring the second goal of her career.
“It was just a great feeling to finish that game off,” Plonsky said. “It wasn’t all me, either. Rebecca Gasper gave me a really good ball.”
Both Jacobson and Plonsky said the team’s offense is most effective when it “builds through the midfield”—something head coach Brandon Barkus has emphasized at practice.
When building through the midfield, the defense, midfield and forwards connect by making a series of shorter passes. This requires skill and practice, and some NSIC teams are more capable of it than others.
“It just stretches out the defense more, creates more gaps for us to make runs,” Jacobson said.
Conversely, some teams try to skip a step by looping the ball from the defense to the forwards and hoping for a lucky break. This can work, but it depends more on luck than skill.
“I would say a lot of teams in our conference just boot the ball,” Jacobson said. “We don’t want to do that because it’s harder to score and you need to catch breaks. The other team has to make mistakes if you’re going to play that way.”
Plonsky’s game-winning goal against Northern came from playing through the midfield.
“[Gasper] just kind of slipped it in right past the defense, and I was there,” Plonsky said.
Both Plonsky and Gasper are substitutes. Allen said the team feels comfortable going to its bench.
The Vikings had to go to their bench more than they would have liked in the early part of the season, though. They have already lost two starters to season-ending injuries: junior defender Lauren Brownrigg to a torn ACL and sophomore midfielder Courtney Almendinger to a stress fracture in her foot.
Despite the injuries and the rough start to the season, Augustana finds itself in second place in the 16-team NSIC. Minot State, the only team with an unblemished conference record, defeated Augustana 3-0 on Sept. 17. It was Minot’s homecoming game, and Jacobson said Minot came out with an intensity to match the moment. The Vikings didn’t.
Augustana has come home since, and wins have accompanied them.