Led by a strong defense and a talented senior class, the Augustana women’s soccer team (11-1-1) approaches the remainder of its regular season with an eight-game win streak. Though the Vikings boast a number-one spot in the NSIC standings, head coach Brandon Barkus reminds his athletes not to get complacent.
“It’s not always how you start, but it’s how you end,” Barkus said. “I hope that we can take the lessons we’ve learned and continue to apply them to get better.”
Barkus said that these lessons range from mental toughness to overcoming adversity, from leadership to never settling. Yet throughout trials and successes, the Vikings continue to focus on defending ─ a skill that all athletes, from goalkeepers to forwards, develop.
“We take so much pride in having shutouts,” senior defender Erin Schneiderhan said. “You have to work, no matter what position you’re on, to defend, because we take so much pride in getting to say that we’ve gone X amount of games without getting scored on.”
From this training, Augustana has produced a stellar defense that shows no sign of slowing down. Junior Claudia Pueschner, two-time NSIC Goalkeeper of the Week, leads the conference in shutouts with nine, and senior Morgan Moe, two-time NSIC Defensive Player of the Week, hasn’t sat on the bench a single time this season.
Additionally, Barkus attributes the Vikings’ strength to a strong class of seniors. Among the elite eight are three-time goal scorer Grace Behm, forward Claire Dahm ─ who Barkus coined “probably the most underrated player” ─ and “box-to-box” runner Peyton Stenzel.
“She probably on average runs eight to nine miles a game,” Barkus said.
Though the Vikings sit first in the conference, they have yet to play MSU-Mankato, Bemidji State or Concordia-St. Paul — the other NSIC top-four teams. Any of the three, according to Barkus, could emerge as rivals for Augustana.
But for now, the team sets its sights on the postseason, aiming to make the biggest possible dent in the NCAA championships.
“We’ve never made it to the third round of the NCAA, and that’s something that we really want to do,” Dahm said. “I think it’s definitely possible this year.”
“We always say, ‘Just extend the season as much as we can,’” Schneiderhan said. “Play as many games as possible. Now, we’re over halfway done, so that’s kind of our goal: Just win as long as you can.”
Still, the Vikings embrace the present, because mid-season festivities ─ practices, game prepping and Friday afternoons at Morstad Field ─ don’t last forever.
“I’m excited for [the postseason], but at the end of the day, I wish everything would slow down, because I like this season,” Barkus said. “I keep getting older. Classes keep graduating. It goes fast.”
Augustana will travel to Crookston, Minnesota, to take on the University of Minnesota Crookston on Friday, Oct. 25. The game is set to start at 3 p.m.