In playoff mode for the last three weeks, the playoff run came to a close last Wednesday as Minnesota State-Mankato blanked the University of Minnesota Duluth 5-0 in the first round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament. The Bulldogs slid up into the eighth seed of the tournament by going on a five-game unbeaten streak, which included four straight wins that propelled them up and over Concordia-St. Paul for the final spot.
“I’m proud of our girls,” said head coach Greg Cane, reflecting on the season. “Our backs were against the wall and we were playing catch up after we struggled in the beginning of the season. We didn’t secure a playoff spot until the last day of the season.”
But the Mavericks made sure the Bulldogs wouldn’t advance any further in the playoffs.
In the 18th minute, Mavericks’ Nicole Dooher headed the ball past sophomore goalkeeper Marissa Rosa off a corner and minutes later, Tori Meinhardt gave the Mavericks a 2-0 lead.
“When you’re in a elimination game and all the chips are in, you go out with an all-out attack when you’re down and hopefully you get a break and get back in the game,” said Cane.
Unfortunately, for Cane and the Bulldogs, that didn’t happen. The Mavericks got by the Bulldogs defense for three more goals including two from Korey Kronforst in the 47th and 82nd minutes.
“We didn’t want the season to end that way but it was intriguing to see the mental fortitude of the girls to manage that pressure,” said Cane. “Our ambitions were much higher. Our expectations were being in top four of our conference and that was also added pressure.”
Last year, the Bulldogs finished 11-6-1 and good enough for third place in the conference and advanced to the semifinals of the NSIC tournament before being ousted by MSU-Mankato once again. UMD returned this season only losing one senior and was ready to make a playoff push. But, it only got as far as the first round of the NSIC.
The Bulldogs finished the season 8-7-3. Cane stated it was a rough season for the club. It had a rough month of September, going 2-4-2 and losing four straight games before rebound at the end of September. The Bulldogs finished the second half of the regular season 5-2-1.
Now that the season comes to a close, coach Cane says goodbye to five Bulldog seniors.
“I’m happy about the group of seniors we had. They all had amazing collegiate careers and they gained a lot of experience,” said Cane, thinking back on the moments. “They had a taste of the NCAA tournament when they freshmen and they were always in the mix. Too bad their careers ended the way it did.”
If this season offered anything, it was that you have to work hard, play hard, keep a good attitude about things and apply yourself to get better.
BY EVAN SMEGAL firstname.lastname@example.org