On Sunday at a bright, beautiful, and crowded Bronson Field, the Fighting Hawks’ Women’s Soccer Team kicked off their 2019 Season with an exhibition opener against the Bisons of Manitoba. While UND won the game 4-1 featuring freshman Lexi Miller scoring the game winner mere moments after coming into the game and freshman goaltender Madi Livingston making a sterling debut playing a clean majority of the second half minutes, there is a lot to like from this game.
Not only are Mimi Eiden and Olivia Knox slated to both have a big season, but those around her look improved and capable of making it impossible to game plan for any one attacker this season. This is a luxury UND Soccer has not had, arguably to this extent, since it joined Division One.
First, as the headline says, this team is fast. One of the biggest challenges Head Coach Chris Logan faced in game planning for opponents was countering their strong backfield with one or two strikers, hoping the wingers would get a ball in past the towering defenders that this team faces on a regular basis in the Summit League. With the team he has assembled, it is possible to do that.
For example, Emma Bangert alone had multiple runs up the right-handed side of the pitch and got quality passes through towards Eiden or Knox in the center. A few times plays were called back for offsides, and a few times the Bisons got to balls, but its a percentage game. The more quality runs through attack this team gets, the better it will be. Logan called this group the most dynamic he has coached so far, and he could be right. Knox and Eiden both have the talent and speed to help each other score goals, while on the back end, this team has maintained its strength.
Oh, and on defense, this team not only has Catherine Kline back in net, but she has two talented understudies who learn from her on a daily basis. Livingston today looked good in her time playing, she was never out of position for shots and controlled distribution quite well. A few years down the road one would hope that people talk about her and fellow freshman netminder Hallie Byzewski the way they have about alumnae Olivia Swenson and Klein. How this team defends the bigger strikers they will see in the Summit League will go a long way to determining their fate.
Finally, take the result today for what it is, a first step. This team, based on its quality runs and scintillating speed could have potted ten or more goals today according to Logan. The challenge will be connecting the speedy wing play to its talented strikers while maintaining its defensive prowess. On Friday, the Fighting Hawks are going to try some different tactical adjustments for the exhibition finale against Viterbo.
Look not so much at who is where on Friday, but look at the chemistry this team can form. The exhibition finale is a final chance for this team to learn what is working well so far, and put on film some moments that need work or adjustment in the hope of sending it not only into the season strong, but helping them make their goal, getting to the Summit League Conference Tournament.