New year. New Bulldogs. A year ago at this time with a nearly identical schedule, the UMD soccer team was 1-4, had been shut out three times, and sat at the bottom of the NSIC standings.
This year, the Bulldogs are 4-1 and have locked up three straight victories to begin conference play. After dismantling St. Cloud State 4-1 in the NSIC opener, UMD captured wins over Upper Iowa and Winona State last week. Close to a quarter of the way through the season, the Bulldogs are 4-0 against Division II opponents, their lone loss coming from Division I North Dakota State.
The start is the program’s best since 2006, when the Bulldogs also began 4-1. UMD’s last 3-0 start in the NSIC was in 2010.
“The credit goes to the coaching staff first,” said junior forward Maureen Stormont, who was tagged with the NSIC Offensive Player of the Week award Monday. “They have fueled our effort and motivation. Every single player, from our starters down to the bench, has listened to the coaches and put in all their effort to win every little battle and be resilient in the times we don’t.”
In the first game of the weekend, UMD opened NSIC home play with a 2-0 victory over Upper Iowa. Stormont found the net first with 48 seconds remaining in the opening half and nearly added a second after heading a shot off the crossbar. Fellow junior Kelli Klun capitalized on the second-chance opportunity after the ball was cleared back to her, giving UMD a two-goal cushion.
On Sunday against Winona State, UMD applied pressure early, outshooting the Warriors 12-4, but failing to notch a goal heading into the break.
UMD took control of the contest early in the second half when Stormont netted her fourth and fifth goals of the season in a three-minute window.
Stormont’s second goal came after she drove off two defenders at midfield and sniped her shot to the far-left post.
“I was looking over to the left for (Marissa) Ganske, but I couldn’t find her,” Stormont said. “I didn’t think much about it. I wanted to get it up the field and make a play. I was zoned in on the goalie, got past the defenders, and I put my shot where I wanted to.”
Winona State increased its offensive pressure throughout the second half, trying to make a comeback. The Warriors’ Hadley Bales finally broke through 22 minutes after Stormont’s second goal to cut the deficit in half. The Bulldog defense closed out the match, 2-1, for the team’s first regular-season victory over Winona State in a decade.
The upcoming schedule for the Bulldogs is road-heavy, as six of their next eight games will be played away from Malosky Stadium. This weekend features battles at Sioux Falls Saturday and Southwest Minnesota State, which is also 3-0 in the NSIC, Sunday.
BY EVAN SMEGAL email@example.com