Just Win: UND Football

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Remember the 2018’s UND Football  Team’s final result on the field? They lost a winnable game to Northern Arizona on the road. Had they secured that victory they most likely would have been in the 2018 iteration of the FCS Playoffs.

Well, this year’s team featuring both multiple program-defining wins over ranked teams, and head scratching losses like a drubbing on the road at the hands of the Bengals of Idaho State, has a chance to make the playoffs. Their ill fated loss to the Wildcats of Weber State, the number three ranked team in the country, one could argue, did not change what needs to happen the next two weeks, nor the impact of this team’s perception in the big picture.

This team plays its final two games at home at the Alerus Center against two sub .500 Big Sky teams in Northern Colorado and Southern Utah. If there was ever a cases of a team looking to play spoiler these next two weeks will provide two teams looking to do just that. They could put Fighting Hawks fans on the other side of the equation from Head Coach Bubba Schweigert’s first year where his side spoiled the playoff hopes of Northern Arizona to end his first season as head coach of UND Football.

This article is simply to point out a few things I have seen this week on social media. First off, could UND be ranked higher? Well yes, and given its resume one could argue for that as several Fighting Hawks fans and media members have done. If I had a vote in the FCS Stats Poll which is compiled by media members around the country, well I could see ranking the team anywhere from 20-30 (if you include those receiving votes). To me 26 in the media poll is not as big of a slight as some have argued as this team, for all of its success this year, has not won more than two games in a row once this season. That streak included winning on the road barely against a Cal Poly team that for all of the good they have done this year, will not be in the FCS playoffs and currently is 2-7.

Are all the wins over ranked teams impressive?

You bet they are.

Are those wins alone enough to get this team into the playoffs?

No they are not.

If this team does not win its last two games, they will not make the playoffs and by that point the media poll will not matter.

If this team wins one game, and finishes 6-5 they will not make the playoffs again despite finishing with two winnable games and having a win against the number three ranked team in the country just elude their grasp. Then the questions about why this team did not schedule 12 games in a year where that was possible will consume part of another long winter of regret in Grand Forks.

All of this is to say the following. Should this team as built assuming it gets back its defensive line stars in Mason Bennett and Jaxson Turner and gets healthy for these last two games make the playoffs, well yes. Will the media under ranking UND for a few weeks matter? No it will not. Attacking media members who watch a lot of FCS ball weekly for not having UND ranked higher, after a loss, in a poll meant to be a snapshot of the moment to see who the best 25 teams in the country are is at best myopic.

I do think that you could argue the team be a bit higher and that’s fair. This piece of my opinion is designed to remind Fighting Hawks fans of the reality of the day. If UND does not win its last two games we will have the following things to be upset about at the end of the day.

Again, a great mostly injury free Fighting Hawks side with great wins came up just short of the playoffs despite having a chance to play an extra non conference game in a 12 game season and finishing its season against two teams whom they should win against.

That is it, that is the list right there. Head Coach Bubba Schweigert and his players are focusing on winning two more games at home. If they do, Sam Herder of Hero Sports thinks they will be in the FCS playoffs based on how things stand at the moment. Regardless of where they get in the big dance if they do make it, then that will be the time for this team to prove people wrong. They need to punch two more sections of their ticket to earn entrance to the 24 team FCS playoffs.

From there, everything is possible for this team, and then they can then work to prove those in the media who have undervalued their wins due to not winning more than two games in a row all year. They have to make the tournament first, all else to this team is secondary.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

Fighting Hawks hang on in 5-4 thriller to earn sweep: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into this weekend, Jasper Weatherby had a lot to show for his efforts this season. Routinely, the sophomore Sharks’ prospect is the first choice to take faceoffs in key moments and he has continuted to get better with his net front presence to the point where his screens have helped contribute to multiple goals this season. He had not tallied a goal to match his efforts. This weekend,with one on each night his goals total has started to get a little closer to matching the hard work he has put in for a Fighting Hawks side that has found its replacement for Rhett Gardner in big moments to take faceoffs.

The Fighting Hawks earned a sweep of the Miami Red Hawks with a 5-4 thrilling win on Saturday night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, in large part thanks to Weatherby’s efforts, combined with the consistent play of Colin Adams who put up two goals on four shots.

His game has continued to grow as well as he finished the night 11-3 on faceoffs, complimented by Weatherby’s 9-5 mark. Again, the faceoff dot is a recurring strength for this team, as the Fighting Hawks finished 40-23 on the evening.

That consistency setup a strong first two periods which featured all of UND’s scoring as Adams, Weatherby, Westin Michaud, and Jordan Kawaguchi would all find the twine for UND on this wacky night replete with offense from both sides.

All of UND’s goals to some degree involved getting Miami goalie Ryan Larkin to have to move off his spot laterally, he typically was not fast enough for the skilled shooting of the Fighting Hawks combined with their superb playmaking showcased throughout the evening. The goal that best personified that was on the power play for the Fighting Hawks, as Westin Michaud made a wonderful backhand pass to Weatherby in space. In mere milliseconds the puck was off his stick and in the top opposite corner of the net, far away from Larkin. Weatherby burying a few more like that, combined with Adams’ ability to help out in the faceoff dot and develop his scoring touch gives UND even more options going forward, which they will need to take on Denver next weekend.

The defense, and now what?

While the goal scoring was quite nice for UND, they did show some vulnerabilities on defense. Goaltender Adam Scheel made some key saves as he does, but at points looked positively human. Miami at times took the game to the Fighting Hawks and made Scheel move laterally, and like Larkin, it seemed as if Scheel had some trouble doing so with any frequency, as the Red Hawks often had sucess burying turnovers, especially on the rush, and through the five hole. While Scheel does not often have nights like this, how this team responds to the issues laid bare at home tonight will go a long way to determining its fate. Keep an eye on the Denver series and look how the Pioneers attack Scheel. They play a speed game and like to score goals off the rush with goalies being forced to move around.

Like the Mankato series, and to some degree tonight, UND could find themselves chasing games if they stay a little too loose in their own end defensively as teams will be more willing to open up their systems a bit more against a Fighting Hawks team that defensively seems more vulnerable on the rush compared to being beaten on a long shift. What happens against Denver remains to be seen, but this team showed that it can score sometimes at will, a welcome upgrade from the morass of great effort but little results this team found itself in last season for vast swaths of it.

In the postseason, being able to win games in multiple ways can often extend your season, we now see that UND can win high-flying games. They have until Friday night at Magness Arena to sure up some things to limit the need to play in more of them, but know that they can play this style if needed.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

An idea for UND Athletics road trips to bring the community together

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

One of the first things I learned about Grand Forks when I came to UND is how passionate this fanbase is about its athletics at-large. One of the other things I learned pretty fast is how expensive it is to be a college hockey fan, and a fan of a lot of teams when they travel on the road, single game streams for some sports alone can range from 7-10 dollars, and more and more the only option available is to purchase a month long stream that can cost around 30 dollars to follow college hockey.  For that, you also have to make sure you remember to cancel the auto renew to see your team play on the road or hope Midco Sports picks up your game on the road as they have done when UND played Duluth and Omaha in hockey last season.

What’s a busy fan of UND Athletics who doesn’t want to pay for athletics streams to do?

Well this is where the Athletic Department and Learfield Sports could step in and save the day. One thing that could sell as a sponsored right fairly fast is designating an official watch spot for all UND Athletics road matches. Not only for men’s hockey, but for football, volleyball, soccer, men and women’s basketball, softball, and any other sport that is being live streamed in any fashion. While the games for some of these sports are free, i think that there is an element of revenue out there to be had for the athletics department and Learfield who helps them sell sponsorships for their media entities.

Imagine for a minute, for the big road match up UND Football has today against Weber State, a bevy of fans gathered at a local place, perhaps Buffalo Wild Wings. While they may stream the game already I believe an element of community is not being as engaged as they could be. Imagine having I Heart Media (the official radio rights holders to UND Athletics)  on hand with one of their wonderful radio personalities on site with giveaways and specials on food and drinks during the game. During pregame for football today, you could have I Heart on site and have one of their hosts getting messages of encouragement for UND Football and all sports. If a fan’s message is selected for the pregame or use in further ads, they could win a gift card from the sponsor, say Buffalo Wild Wings or whomever gets the deal.

Then, the UND Home of Economy Radio Network could spice up their ads promoting further UND Athletics broadcasts with organic content from fans most passionate about the team. You could even work with alums for Men’s Hockey and other sports in town to provide another reason to attend. If a program graduate (say Ryan Duncan for Men’s Hockey) wants to guest host you could have them help amp up fans,and maybe sign autographs.

Does this require more work to figure out? Of course it does. Is it an opportunity for UND and Learfield to improve fan engagement and sell a big rights deal to a local restaurant to further engage passionate Fighting Hawks fans and provide an outlet for those looking for that sense of community that only things like sport can bring even on an away game? Yes it does. I am sure outlets around town already stream games to some extent, and some surely will even without “sponsoring” official watch parties.

What they cannot bring to the party that Learfield and I Heart Media can is further incentive driving fans to one spot, the engagement possibilities leveraging media rights holder I Heart Radio, and potential to increase revenue and engagement for UND Athletics, Learfield Sports, and local businesses looking to provide giveaway items to the most engaged fans in town. Bringing together fans all around Grand Forks is something UND Athletics does on a weekly basis, why not leverage that community on away games for any sport to help the Athletics Department bring in more revenue to hit its goals.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

Opportunistic Bemidji State earns 7-1 victory over Lake Superior State

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

If you look at the score, you see a 7-0 Bemidji State win, and rightly so. Adam Brady finished with two goals  along with Charlie Combs to lead the way in scoring for the Beavers, Kyle Looft earned his first career college hockey goal, and Zach Driscoll earned a 28 save victory with superb play throughout, including on multiple key breakaways in the first period where he kept the game tied before Bemidji State found their footing and took hold of the game. Max Humitz provided the only marker for the Lakers on a breakaway late in the third period.

Looking beyond the box score you see how close this game was in the first despite the score. Ian Johnston and Louis Boudon each hit the frame of the goal in the first period, arguably each were the Lakers’ two best early chances. The Lakers would keep things close on shot attempts through the first period, only trailing by six, 23-17. Those two hit pipes changed the course of the game and gave the Beavers and opening they did not miss. The Lakers paid for those misses throughout the game, as they never really controlled time and space for very long other than the first few minutes where they hit those pipes on Friday night.

After the first, in terms of possession, Bemidji State began to assert themselves a bit more. Their stymieing style of defense sinking back four players in the neutral zone made it tough for the Lakers to get through with any consistent speed. In the second, the Beavers added two of their five markers to provide the final score at the end of Mitens’ 40 minutes of tough service.Despite being pulled after two periods, Mitens made several great saves and showcased his lateral quickness throughout the game, he typically as beat on grade a chances that the Lakers need to clamp down on to have a better chance at winning the finale, Mitens’ lateral quickness has actually improved year over year since we have first started covering him, and he faced an absolute barrage of shots on net tonight. After the game, Coach Damon Whitten and forward Yuki Miura both noted the need to limit shots on net. Whitten noted the need to win more puck battles, which often cost the Lakers dearly. Roman Bengert finished up in the third period for the Lakers making 10 saves on the night facing 12 shots fired towards him.

If the Lakers can get an early goal, like they have done with some regularity this season, in the series finale, they can make the Beavers do what they had to tonight, play out of their comfort zone. When the Lakers attack and press the issue this season they typically can compete with most teams. When their opponents score first they have had to force passes not always there and look for stretch passes and play out of their system.

Look for more on these Lakers in the coming weeks, but for tomorrow night keep an eye on who scores first, for the most part this season that has told the story of win or loss for the Lakers of Lake Superior State University. If they can earn a split on the road before facing off against Michigan Tech at home, that is the best outcome they can hope for Saturday night in Bemidji.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college athletics please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about college athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

UND Soccer: Some more breaths

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Every home game this year for UND Soccer has had them warm up to a diverse playlist including a clean version of Future’s song entitled “Last Breath”, one lyric in the song that stands out because it personifies the mentality of this team is below:

“I got angels all around me, yeah, yeah
I got love all around me, yeah, yeah
I’ll be a fighter ’til the end, ’til my last breath
I’ma hustle ’til my last breath”

This bit of the song personifies the mentality of this team this season. Thanks to a Mary DeWalt marker for the Pioneers of Denver on Sunday, UND earned a place in the tournament over their in state rival whom they outplayed in most metrics other than score, the Bison of North Dakota State. This team has shown all year that they consistently hustle until the clock strikes zero or the golden goal goes in. In addition, this is a team greater than the sum of its parts which in and of themselves are pretty good.

This Fighting Hawks team has been in nearly every game they have played this year throughout the entire 90 minutes, with one of their rare exceptions being in the 7-0 loss to the Pioneers. In that game, Mimi Eiden had the first good chance and did not convert before the Pioneers put away two goals late in the half. Head Coach Chris Logan then opened up the pace of play in the second half which lead to more chances for UND, but also more goals for Denver on the counter attack. Logan was happier with the effort from his team that day than in their 1-0 overtime loss to Oral Roberts, because of the quality of chances created against the Summit League Regular Season Champion was higher.

The forward group for this Fighting Hawks side has been impressive to watch this season. While Mimi Eiden lead the way with goals scored and is often the fastest player on the pitch, that, to me at least is not what stood out most about her play this season. She has been able to consistently track back on balls and plays the entire length of the pitch as needed. In addition, she has developed her finishing throughout the season and still has another to play for this Fighting Hawks side.

In addition to Eiden, freshman sensation Bailey McNitt has provided another spark to this team. She plays a sound technical game with a lot of the speed of Eiden and an ability to generate top flight crosses. Her most memorable moment this season was coming off the bench to take a corner kick in double overtime against the Gaels of Saint Mary’s that found its way off Meghan Wilson’s foot and into the back of the net for the golden goal.

Olivia Knox has added to her superb freshman season with another strong one this year. Her value to this team has been her ability to play in the midfield or forward as needed. She started the year in more of a central defensive midfield role before moving back to her forward position as the temperature fell and the meaning of the games went up. Her consistent presence for this team regarding getting and holding the ball through the midfield and setting up the talented wingers this team has cannot be understated.

Finally, on defense, Hannah Olson has been this team’s most consistent defender leading a strong back line of players who allow the talented forwards on this team to push forward as needed. Olson often dispossesses players of the ball and dishes it the other way pretty quickly, she can join the attack as needed, and is just a freshman.

These are just some of the standouts this team has had this year, this is the most well rounded team Logan has had, and they face Denver at 3 PM tomorrow. If this team wants its season to have breath in the Summit League Championship, they need to score first against Denver and defend without sacrificing any attack to do so. Easier said than done as the Pioneers have multiple award winners leading the way for them, but keeping this all in perspective, a team with three seniors and a talented underclassmen core gets another chance to challenge one of the most veteran teams the Summit League has. At the beginning of the year, Logan planned to get his team in the tournament.

The Fighting Hawks can now prove some people wrong tomorrow against the Pioneers, and regardless of result, this season will go on until its last breath because of the hustle and dedication of this team to consistent development. Whatever the result, this team has set the standard for team soccer in the Division One Era so all Fighting Hawks teams that come after it have a much higher benchmark to reach for.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

 

Fighting Hawks just outpace Michigan Tech 3-1 on Kawaguchi game winner: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

On Saturday night, in front of 10899 people at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks faced off against a stout defending, hard-charging, Michigan Tech Huskies team that has on its resume a win over WCHA foe Bowling Green among others. For most of the game, the all-world student section for Michigan Tech carried the energy of the building.

Mitch’s Misfits, the student section that made the journey to the Ralph, had something to cheer about early on as Justin Mislak took a feed from Alex Smith and went on the backhand through the five hole of UND goalie, Adam Scheel. The Huskies lead for a few minutes in the first, but after a Matt Kiersted point shot went off the center right post and in from the far point, they would never regain the lead.

Throughout the rest of the game, it resembled at times a territorial soccer match where teams would march down the pitch or rink in this case regularly and then not be able to finish. Huskies’ netminder Robbie Beydoun finished the night with 21 saves on 23 shots saved. One thing stood out about some of his saves, especially on the penalty kill. The Fighting Hawks, according to Head Coach Brad Berry were often too predictable with the man advantage, and it seemed like Beydoun was able to anticipate shots often before UND took them.

The game winner for UND came on four-on-four action. Jordan Kawaguchi took a feed from Colin Adams stationed along the half wall. In the middle of a Tech defense listing to the wall Kawaguchi found the back of the net for the game winner shooting against the momentum of the defense 12:29 into the third period. Gavin Hain added an insurance marker with 27 seconds left in the game on the empty net.

Hain played with Mark Senden and Cole Smith tonight. Coach Berry reincarnated the GMC (Gavin Hain, Mark Senden, Cole Smith) line. Like the brand of car this line was UND’s most dependable for large portions of the season last year, and this line was able to hold possession and earn chances at multiple points. Senden finished the night winning 9 of the 16 faceoffs he took, and his line was on the ice a lot at big points in the game, and could be back together again.

On defense, Gabe Bast and Colton Poolman were out and replaced by Ethan Frisch and Josh Rieger. The Captain of UND, Poolman, was pulled after an evaluation on gameday, and Berry hopes to know more about his long-term status before next week. His uncertainty was not reassuring to say the least, relating to the best all-around defender this team has coming back soon.

Now What?

This team had a lot of points where the Huskies, to be honest, made them play their game. The Huskies were also much more physical with the Fighting Hawks at eliminating the value of their net-front presence that they had worked for over the first few games. Getting to the net was not how UND won this game, as the Huskies eliminated rebounds and second looks. Berry’s point about being methodical could be applied to even strength play as well. When this team can not only create chances on rebounds but keep their opponents guessing, good things could happen. In addition, this team has to learn how to win games in different ways.

Net front presence is great, but this team has has now seen what better defending teams can do to limit the value of it. If they can both get one or two rebound goals off the net-front investment per game and one or two more off skill per game, it will ensure both options remain open. As this team plays the Red Hawks of Miami, watch how they play an always fast team looking to move up in the NCHC world. If UND can convert a chance or two on the rush each night, a sweep may be in order, if not, well ask again later.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

UND Athletics Unsung Heroes:Men’s Hockey and Soccer

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Here at Seamore Sports, we take pride in looking beyond the box score and covering unsung heroes for their contributions on the field, rink, or anywhere else Fighting Hawks and collegiate student athletes play.

It is in that spirit that we look to start a weekly feature on unsung heroes for the Fighting Hawks. Every week we will talk about one unsung hero for a men’s and women’s team so you will read about two student athletes’ on-field exploits not readily apparent by a mere viewing of the box score or recaps published after the game.

First, let’s discuss UND Soccer. The Fighting Hawks have won ten games for the first time since moving to Division One, and finish out their regular season this week against the Bison of North Dakota State on the road under the lights in Fargo at 6 PM on Thursday. The female unsung hero of the past week is redshirt freshman defender Hannah Olson. If you want to see why this team has been able to play forward so much and put more pressure on opposing teams’ back lines, looking to UND’s defense as a major strength is one reason this team is doing so well. So many times this season, and against Omaha this past week, UND Head Coach Chris Logan when asked has noted her play as superb on the back line. So many teams in the Summit League have superb goal scorers, and baring the game against Denver where Logan noted that he was moving players forward for the last 45 minutes, this team has given up no more than two goals at home. That is a hard feat in the Summit League, and tough to complete against an Omaha side playing for its postseason life on Sunday.

Olson has been at the forefront of UND’s defense all year. She consistently make superb reads on attacking players and is quite skilled, as she showed Sunday, in angling attacks out to the side to allow her back line to reset and push things forward.She has often been the answer to the “who had the best game in the field not based on the box score” question and their variations this year. Olson is a major key to this Fighting Hawks’ defense and does not get talked about as much as their superb attacking group. Without Olson’s superb play on the back line against Omaha, one has to think that the Mavericks could have gone up 2-0 in the first half with more chances. That one goal difference made a world of difference in the second half as it allowed the Fighting Hawks to keep playing their game.

Olson’s superb ability to read the angles and get the ball forward when asked has gone without a lot of if any mention from those not playing for the team. She is the Female Unsung Hero for UND Athletics this past week and one of the key reasons why this is the best team in the Division One Era the Fighting Hawks have had based on record. Hannah Olson is the Female Unsung Hero of the Week for the Fighting Haw

weatherby 2

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

As to Men’s Hockey, let’s talk some more about Jasper Weatherby and what he did for his team in the past weekend. The Sharks’ prospect did not put up a goal, but he did run the faceoff dot for this team both nights. In addition, he is continuing to own the net front for the Fighting Hawks and is a consistent presence for this team. Head Coach Brad Berry compared his prowess in the dot to recently to recently departed Rhett Gardner. Weatherby adding this element to his game has been a massive part of why UND has started so well.

When the Fighting Hawks play well in all of their zones, it comes to how they start, winning the faceoff and Weatherby’s development in the dot, combined with his net front presence were important parts of the sweep over Bemidji State. Even when he has a zero point night, his presence screening the goalie and strong work in the dot are essential to the continued success of this team. Weatherby is the Male Unsung Hero of the Week for the Fighting Hawks.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for  all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

 

UND Soccer makes history: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Today at Bronson Field, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks Soccer Team made history. For the first time since the school took its athletics to the Division One Level, and for the first time since 2006, this program won its tenth game of the season today in a 5-2 decision against the Mavericks of Omaha.

What made this victory so encouraging and uplifting to see was who helped out and how they did. First, the team was down to its only remaining goaltender on the roster.Head Coach Chris Logan noted that he had to communicate with his captains to find a backup in case of an emergency today as he and his staff were not sure which outfield players had any goalkeeping experience. Hallie Byzewski made her debut for this team, and her first ever start. Despite letting in a tough to play goal from Sydney Randall on an arching long shot aided by the wind just 14 minutes into the match, she held tough. Towards the end of the first half Byzewski had to make a couple of saves on two wonderful UNO chances point blank that would have pushed the deficit to 2-0. She finished her debut with much success and made those two saves on four shots total. Looking beyond the box score with Hallie, seeing her come in and start her first ever game of college soccer with UND needing to break out of a two game losing streak and secure a mid table finish in the Summit League, on a very treacherous weather day was heartening. Logan has credited assistant coach Amanda Raso with developing three wonderful goalkeepers and today was another showcase of how she develops goalies. Byzewski was confident in her reads and did not look at all out of place as she made multiple good reads on crosses or through balls to extinguish chances before Omaha could record a shot on target.

On to the exploits of the outfield players, throughout the game, before clawing the lead away from Omaha in the second half and after, the Fighting Hawks were the superior team. They played with the same speed and dedication they did in the 7-0 loss to Denver but this time were rewarded for their efforts on the scoreboard.

Ashley Ebeling opened the scoring with a high arching cross that she expertly curled into the back of the net 58:27 into the game sending Bronson Field into an uproar. She took a feed from Olivia Knox and did not miss her chance to tie things up. Ebeling and her back line featuring Hannah Olson had a superb day for the Fighting Hawks.

The Mavericks had very few good looks throughout the game, and their second goal scored down 4-1 was really the only defensive miscue of the day as Laurin Mertz worked in and found the low far post to provide the last goal Omaha would score. Ebeling thought Olson had her best game of the season as she asserted herself and won possession on many tough plays and helped reverse the field quickly for the Fighting Hawks.

Megan Wright was the next to improve her goals tally as she was able to rocket home a ball to the top corner of the frame just over three minutes after the Ebeling tally. At this point the scoreboard began to reflect the reality of the game. Wright finished the game with a goal and assist.

Roughly nine minutes after the Wright marker, Mara Yapello provided what would be the game winning goal on the day as she put home a lose ball in the box. She was rewarded for her hard work as like Wright she consistently pushed the pace forward and had Omaha on their heels.

2:02 after the Yapello marker, Olivia Knox found the back of the net. She played more of an up front role for the Fighting Hawks today and was able to direct a header into the near corner to add some insurance for UND. The sophomore versatile player picked her spot and did not miss. Knox had not only a nice header, but an uncontested one as she soared on Bronson Field as she provided the decisive goal on the day. Although she has played more of a central defensive midfielder role for this team, she showed today what fans and media know about her, she can play up front whenever she is asked and knows how to find the back of the net.

Finally, Mimi Eiden would round out the goal scoring for UND. She put home her eighth goal of the season 83:26 into this one on a loose ball in the box. Eiden has been at the forefront of so many good chances for this team and Logan was proud of her for being able to be rewarded for her effort. Whenever she is on the pitch, she is one of if not the fastest players on the field, and her ability to find the tiniest gaps in an opposing defense is a wonderful thing to see. This program and every Fighting Hawks fan is lucky that she is on this team for another year after this one to say the least. She played 54 minutes coming off the bench today and as always pushed the pace as much as she could.

Going forward what does this win mean? Well for one, if the Fighting Hawks make the Summit League Tournament after their regular season finale Thursday on the road against the Bison of North Dakota State, Chris Logan should receive serious Summit League Coach of the Year consideration. In three short years he has not only improved the on field results for this team and guided them to the Summit League, but he has also changed the mentality of everyone associated with this program. Under multiple coaches that preceded him, the mentality was strictly a counter-attacking one.

If UND scored first they would let the opponent come to them and try to defend and hope to maybe win a game 1-0. That mentality and style of soccer exited this program when Logan was hired. He and his staff have recruited a confident group of players and developed those here under the previous coach to play a different game of soccer. Logan did something so antithetical to the UND Soccer of old that it was honestly fun to watch on Thursday despite the result.

The Fighting Hawks attacked a strong Denver team all game and came up short 7-0 despite earning some looks. Today, they converted a lot of those similar quality looks in less than ideal conditions. Multiple times this team has been scored on first, not ideal in any sport, especially in soccer, and multiple times they have answered back with today being no exception to that ability to answer back.

On Thursday in Fargo the Fighting Hawks face a massive test from the Bison. They took the class of the Summit League in South Dakota State to the brink and lost to them 1-0 on the road. They are lead in net by all world goalie, senior Monica Polgar who recently made her career save number 300. Up front the Bison are lead by Elyse Huber who has 10 goals on 36 shots on target. Huber and Polgar lead the way for this Bison team, and are some of the best players in their positions throughout the Summit League.

The Fighting Hawks face a tough test on Thursday night with everything to play for, although nothing is assured as to their postseason fate, the ability to earn any points against a tough and veteran Bison side is the goal. Thursday night in Fargo under the lights we will see another iteration of UND-NDSU with massive postseason implications for both teams. If UND maintains the spark that bore no fruit on Thursday against Denver in the second half that carried over through today’s win, anything can be possible for this team.

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UND Sweeps Bemidji State- What to look for next

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight at a sold out Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks needed to get off to a good start in their series finale against an always tight-checking Bemidji State Beavers side eager for a split. They did just that as 36 seconds in, Jordan Kawaguchi made Beavers’ netminder Henry Johnson pay for playing the puck behind his own net. He created a turnover and fired the puck to Grant Mismash who buried it in the wide open net. This goal set the tone for the period and evening at large. 16:56 into the first period, Cole Smith used a wrap around to end up bouncing a puck to Mark Senden who found the back of the net in tight shooting to an empty net as Johnson over played the first shot.

That would remain the margin through the first period and most of the second as the Fighting Hawks controlled the pace of things through the game. Jonny Tychonick added an insurance marker in the second as Mismash would add a primary assist to his ledger. He found Tychonick activating into the rush and wired across a superb pass. Jonny potted his first career goal on that rush and slammed into the boards in celebration. As UND Head Coach Brad Berry noted, it was good to see him finally get rewarded for the offensive prowess he brings to the UND blue line. Colton Poolman added an empty net marker late in the third period to restore a three goal lead after Aaron Miller found the back of the net for the Beavers 18 seconds earlier.

Now, the Fighting Hawks have one week to get ready for a one game date with the Huskies of Michagan Tech at the Ralph. How they continue the last five periods of play from this weekend will determine the result.

Beyond the scoring, UND goalie Adam Scheel played well tonight, especially as the game progressed and made more tough saves throughout the waves Bemidji State was trying to throw at the Fighting Hawks. He finished with 19 saves on the night and had a big role in keeping things calm as UND grew its lead.

In addition, Brad Berry praised Jasper Weatherby for the consistency in his game. He has begun to fill the very important role vacated by Rhett Gardner. Weatherby is now the center the staff looks to when they need a big draw won in the defensive zone to stymie a potential chance. Adding his skill at the dot is a big addition to the team this year. While he did not score for the Fighting Hawks he again spent a lot of the night parked in front of the Bemidji State net and tipped some pucks wide and just missed a few others.

In addition,  the staff mixed up the lines a little bit tonight. They rewarded Josh Rieger with time as the seventh defenseman and slotted in Casey Johnson up front. Both players played their roles, and we could see them more this year. The lineup changes were made in part due to how last night’s game finished and the coaches wanting to get different players some game action.

Next week will provide another test against the Huskies of Michigan Tech. Tonight, against a decent Bemidji State team that makes life tough for their opponents when able to defend we saw the blueprint to win for this team executed to perfection. Score early, and make responsible plays throughout to add insurance as needed. When this team can make other teams open up their game to try and score just to catch up, good things will happen.

This team has too much skill to try and play grind heavy games as a first resort if not needed, if they can get one quick and defend that allows them to roll all of their skaters and not need to worry about shortening the bench. It may not seem like much now, but spreading out minutes for as long as possible will help later on in the year. Developing depth to add with skill is not a bad idea, and hopefully this team can do so as we progress in this still early on season.

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UND Football: Regarding playoffs, ask again later

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

The Fighting Hawks dispatched their third ranked side this afternoon as they vanquished the number nine ranked Bobcats of Montana State 16-12 thanks to a recovered blocked punt for a touchdown and a defense that held them in the game, limiting the Bobcats big plays and keeping the team in the game.

Now UND heads into a bye week for the second time this season with a chance to rest up, especially on defense where injuries have forced underclassmen to step into bigger roles a bit faster than initially thought.

What does all of this mean for where UND should be ranked? Well one could argue for ranking the Fighting Hawks in the low 20’s based on their win this weekend and without looking at the rest of the FCS I could certainly see that. It is a subject that will be debated fiercely by pundits and fans, especially those who interact with Brian McLaughlin and Sam Herder of Hero Sports who have two of the votes in the FCS Stats Poll publish their ballot and in at least Brian’s case why he votes the way he does as well.

Sam discusses his picks and votes extensively with Brian on their weekly podcast hosted through Hero Sports, give it a listen sometimes, these are two of the most plugged in folks in the FCS you will meet. They follow every team in the country at this level to the best of their ability and this sport is better because of them.

To re-purpose a phrase from Brian he likes to use when describing things in the FCS landscape, on this UND team we need to see more data. That is yes, the win today is great and this Fighting Hawks side has shown resiliency throughout the year when dealing with adversity. Can we overlook the Idaho State loss and potentially the Eastern Washington losses on the road?  Maybe we can if UND plays well enough to allow it.

If this team goes 7-4 in total and loses one of its last two home games that look winnable against Northern Colorado or Southern Utah, do they make the playoffs over say a 7-5 win team with an FBS win and a better strength of schedule. I do not know. I honestly don’t know what to make of this team other than they merit perhaps a low rank in the applicable polls and a spot on the good side of the bubble, for now. The polls, especially the FCS Stats Poll are merely a snapshot of a wide open landscape of football full of wonderful people who cover the game to the best of their ability.

If a MEAC team like the Aggies of North Carolina A&T finishes second and does not make the Celebration Bowl, and finishes with a 9-2 or 8-3 record and UND loses a must win game at home should they be in over the Aggies at that record with a 7-4 finish? I do not know. Southern Illinois could finish 7-5 and have a case to be in over the Fighitng Hawks as they have an FBS win to their credit.

As to the Fighting Hawks, their decision to play 11 games will either be a stroke of genius or seen as myopic if they finish on the wrong side of the bubble if they finish 7-4 and are eclipsed by a 7-5 team with an FBS win or a 9 or 8 win MEAC team like the Aggies? That is the reality of a 12 game maximum schedule season. Schools make their choice and live with the results and consequences, good and bad either way.

What I know for sure is this team needs to have a strong finish and go 8-3 to remove more questioning articles like this being written. If this team wins out it will 100 percent make the playoffs barring some odd circumstances around the FCS. In that case we will be focused on UND’s first or second round opponent depending on their position in the field.

In a few weeks if UND finishes out of the playoffs due to losing any of its must win games at home or being on the bad side of the bubble beating Weber State and losing the other two games then the questions raised by those not voting for or voting for UND lower will be valid.

All of this is to say, do not read too much into the polls this week or next week. UND needs to win three more games to remove as much doubt as possible and cement a playoff spot and potential national seed. This team will not (hopefully) focus on the polls and keep their eyes on Weber State. They face a potential top 10 opponent on the road in their last chance to add a quality win to their resume before playing two must win games to end the season.

To those following this team, focus on the on field results. They guide the polls and what writers will say about UND’s playoff chances. More data is required to determine the fate of the 2019 UND Football team, two weeks from now is the next chance to acquire some based on their result against Weber State.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories you will not see elsewhere about UND Football and other college football teams, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story we write as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.