(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.
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