MAX CURTIN, Editor-in-Chief—The pieces are coming together for the Big Red.
Things may not have gone exactly according to plan in the early stages of the season; it seemed as though the team lost a key contributor to injury every time they took the field.
It is going to take much more than a handful of injuries and a grueling non-conference schedule to keep this group from making some noise this season.
A lot has changed over the course of the past two weeks. On Saturday, September 21, the team really had to look at themselves in the mirror after falling 4-0 to #2 Messiah on the road in a game in which Captain Kelly O’Neill ‘21 suffered a season-ending knee injury. The shutout loss dropped the team’s record to 2-4-3.
Leland Keller ‘23 has been one of a number of underclassmen to step up and make a difference for the Big Red game in and game out so far this season. Keller speaks to the positive attitude she and the team have been able to maintain through the early-season adversity.
“The biggest thing that has been emphasized this season is trusting the process. We had very tough competition at the beginning of the season, but those games are preparing us for conference and will contribute to our success in the future,” Keller says.
Since falling 4-0 to Messiah, the Big Red have responded emphatically.
2-0 Win @ Capital on Wednesday, September 25
They got things started on Wednesday, September 25 with a 2-0 road shutout against a solid Capital squad that entered the game with a 6-2 record. It was the beginning of a huge week for Abby King ‘22 who tallied her third goal of the season in the first half and added an assist in the opening minutes of the second.
2-0 Win vs. Ohio Wesleyan on Saturday, September 28
The bounce-back win seems to have been a major turning point for the Big Red. It game them all of the momentum they needed entering their home showdown against Ohio Wesleyan during Big Red Weekend.
The Big Red made a statement to the rest of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) in their first conference game of the year, outshooting OWU 23-5 (11-2 shots on goal) en route to a dominant 2-0 win.
Keller got the scoring started in this one with her second career goal in the seventeenth minute to give her team their first lead of the game. The freshman midfielder also got her teammates involved when she set up King just ten minutes later for her fourth goal of the season.
The Big Red were clearly the better team for all 90 minutes and cruised to a 2-0 victory, improving their record to 4-4-3.
King’s stellar performance was noticed around the conference, and her three points on the week earned her NCAC Player of the Week honors. She speaks to how the team has battled collectively to overcome a difficult start to their season.
“Despite having a lot of injured players, our team continues to stay connected and work together as a unit. We realize not only one person can change the game, and that it takes us all to contribute to overall team success. These injuries just inspire us to play so much harder for each other, and not to take anything for granted,” King says.
3-0 Win @ Allegheny on Saturday, October 5
The Big Red continued their fine stretch of play with another decisive conference win against the Gators from Allegheny.
Though it took them a little longer to get on the board in this one, they never looked back after pulling ahead in the 28th minute following a goal from Meg Rogan ‘22, the first of her career.
The Big Red controlled possession throughout and never allowed the Gators to establish any sort of rhythm offensively. They went on to add two more goals in the second half — the first from King and the second from Logan Agin ‘20 — on their way to a convincing 3-0 win.
Keller comments on how the team’s tough early schedule has paid dividends for the team already.
“We played some of the top teams in the country which ended up showing us the level of play that we need to be playing at to be successful in conference,” Keller says.
This year’s team is on a mission. Despite the crucial injuries they have already suffered, they remain determined to take care of unfinished business from last year, when they lost in the Semifinals of the NCAC Tournament after finishing the regular season with the best record in the conference.
Winners of three straight, the Big Red have improved their record to 5-4-3 (2-0 NCAC). They will look to add to their streak on Saturday, October 12 when they take on Kenyon on the road at 1 p.m. The two teams will enter Saturday’s contest as the last remaining unbeaten teams in the NCAC.