UND Soccer 2019 Review: On the Ascent

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

This season, the Fighting Hawks Soccer Team came in looking to do something that had alluded Head Coach Chris Logan, and this program at large since they became eligible to go to the postseason in their Division One history, make the conference tournament.

That was the zenith for this program as they fell short 3-0 in the semifinals against a Denver team felled by penalty kicks in the tournament’s finale against South Dakota State.

Looking back, this 2019 team was the culmination of the first three years of Head Coach Chris Logan’s reign here in Grand Forks. For a look at how he has helped develop players and coaches while here let’s look at Mimi Eiden and Chris Citowicki. In the first year of his time here, Logan made a statement by having his team defend on the road in the season opener against an always formidable Bison side. That team won thanks to an Emma Contino free kick goal and stellar goalkeeping. That team played good defense and worked hard to put goals home. The 2018 team built on that success and came just short of postseason play.

That year, we saw a glimpse of the future of this program with Eiden coming to campus to compliment Katie Moller, the all world striker who finished her career with the Fighting Hawks in the 2018 campaign doing everything but getting the team to the Summit League Tournament. Oh yeah, since taking over the Montana Grizzlies after his year here, Citowicki has gone on to win a Big Sky Regular Season Championship, and one conference tournament. He has a really good side in Missoula and is one of the reasons the Fighting Hawks are were they are.

As for Eiden, one would sincerely hope the Summit League gives her some preseason hardware next season as she comes into the 2020 campaign as arguably the fastest player in the league, and one of their most capable goal scorers. Up front, her with Bailey McNitt on the wing in her second season should be quite fun to watch, as McNitt’s technical skills on the ball and her speed along with Eiden’s finishing ability is a great combo.

Back to the 2019 side, coming into the year we knew Catherine Klein would start in net, and she had another superb season. For me, the highlight of her season was her penalty kick save in a defensive struggle against Grand Canyon on the road. Doing that off a questionable call against the Fighting Hawks before they would go on to win on the road in a packed stadium was impressive, and a save that UND Soccer fans will talk about for years on end.

Backing her up were two freshmen, Madi Livingston and Hallie Byzewski. They both played well in relief and in exhibitions, but Livingston’s play late in the season stood out. While her save percentage may not reflect her skills, she showcased what Assistant Coach Amanda Raso had worked on with her all year through some key games. She saved a penalty kick against the NDSU Bison, again on the road and showed a lot of potential for years to come. Her poise grew with each game she played, and she will have a chance to earn the net next year for the Fighting Hawks.

On to the back line for this team, they stood out quite well and in hockey terms, limited grade a chances for other teams, making their netminder’s life a bit easier. Hannah Olson stood out for me the most throughout the year. As Coach Logan is a Liverpool fan, Olson reminds me a bit of one Virgil Van Dijk. She is a physical defender who can play the ball up in space and is not afraid to jump ahead to put defenses on their heals. She still has three years to grow and get even better. Suffice it to say, the back line of UND lead by Olson will only improve.

Finally, just a note to follow along with us in the offseason for more on UND Soccer. We will have something up about the full soccer recruiting class soon and what to look for going into the next season once soccer’s schedule is revealed. This 2019 team left their mark on UND and is the benchmark for future squads to try and exceed. Credit to Chris Logan and his staff for the quick turnaround, and if he can completely rebuild a program in three years, imagine what he and his staff can do next season.

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First comeback

Photo Credit: Russell Hons -UND Athletics

On a rain-soaked Bronson Field, the Fighting Hawks of UND accomplished something that had never been done under the leadership of Head Coach Chris Logan. This team went down 1-0 to the Gaels of St Mary’s College 51:44 into the match on a corner kick that found its way to Malia Alison to open the scoring ledger for the day.

That lead lasted a mere 1:56 as a perfectly placed Bailey McNitt corner found Mara Yapello who was able to tie things up on a shot to the left side of the net.

The score would remain level until the second overtime frame because of UND goalie Catherine Klein parrying away a number of great looks for the Gaels.

107:58 into the match, once again the game was on Bailey McNitt’s foot. After recently coming on as a late substitute for Mimi Eiden , her skills at the corner flag were needed once again. She placed a ball in a tough spot for the Gaels who were unable to clear it from danger. Then Mara Yapello found Meghan Wilson who put home the golden goal for the Fighting Hawks.

UND finished a home weekend against two quality non-conference opponents in Montana and St. Mary’s undefeated. Today’s match presented different challenges as the Fighting Hawks faced one of the fastest teams they will see all season. In a battle of speed against speed UND was able to hang on through tough stretches and come out with a hard-earned victory.

Going forward, this team can build on a few things like ensuring a more stable possession throughout the middle of the field. As Logan noted, when the team is able to do that, given the skilled players they have, they become much harder to defend.

As UND works on that they can gain more options to utilize their strong speed on the wings to open up quality looks on goal.

Now the Fighting Hawks head out on a two game road trip through South Carolina to build on this weekend’s results. The Fighting Hawks take on South Carolina State and The Citadel this week before returning home on September 6 to take on Chicago State.

If this team can keep improving as they have under Logan since he came to campus then this season promises to be as electric as today’s result is.

UND Soccer is sprinting towards the season

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.

7-1: How UND Soccer Soared Past Purdue Fort Wayne

(Photo Credit:Russ Hons-FightingHawks.com)

Today, UND came in just outside of the Summit League Tournament picture in sixth place. Seven goals and their biggest conference victory in the Division one era vaulted the Fighting Hawks right back into postseason contention. Katie Moller lead the way with four goals, establishing herself as the most prolific goal scorer for UND in its NCAA Division One existence. Olivia Knox started things off with two goals, further reinforcing her superb rise as a sensational goal-scoring freshman for UND, and Veronica Kessler contributed her second salvo of the season to provide the final goal scoring tally for UND. Deanna Hecht provided the sole goal for the Mastadons of Purdue Fort Wayne with 2:15 left in the game on a nice move and sensational finish.

How Did This Happen?

Well, look no further than shorts and shots on goal for UND. They finished with 15 shots on net in 90 minutes of play. The Fighting Hawks played relentless throughout the entire game. 80 percent of UND’s starting field players recorded at least one shot and all of UND was able to provide depth to their offensive game today. Even though she did not score, Mimi Eiden had another impressive game today. She came inches from scoring on a rebound but was ruled down on an offside call. As always, Eiden’s speed is a great asset for UND to have and has constantly helped her teammates in creating lanes for them to score. As for Moller, we are running out of adjectives to describe how good she is at scoring goals and generating offense. She contributed to five of the seven UND goals today. Moller had four goals and one assist and came very close to being the first UND soccer player to ever score five goals in one game on a few occasions.

Now What? 

UND has almost a week to get ready for superb Summit League side South Dakota State. They take on SDSU this Friday at home in their final home match of the season. Look for SDSU to challenge the back line of UND a bit more consistently than the Mastodons did today. As a result, look for the Fighting Hawks to try more of their same style. Expect them to take the play to SDSU and try to score early and defend as needed. If UND can compete with NDSU and almost win, then they can play with absolutely any team in the conference. Friday will be a fun matchup.