To be in control of one’s destiny is an invaluable privilege in sports that allows a team to play with focus and confidence, untroubled by outside forces dictating its future. Early this season, St. Olaf women’s soccer had such an advantage.
Following a three game winning streak, the Oles touted a 3-1 record against conference opponents, giving them an encouraging early-season advantage. If they kept winning, they’d emerge as a force to be reckoned with in the MIAC. Alternatively, they had effectively purchased insurance in case a couple losses seeped into their ongoing victories. Either way, the Oles had firm control of their immediate future.
The last four weeks have stripped them of this valuable advantage. Since October began, the Oles have limped to a 1-4 record, all conference games they needed to win, culminating in a surprising upset at the hands of Northfield rival Carleton on Oct. 22.
The Knights started strong with an early goal in the 15th minute by Madeline Topf, and St. Olaf never provided an answer. The Oles took nine shots on goal, two each from Mackenzie Shoustra ’20, Lindsey Kemp ’18 and Claire Bash ’20, totalling two more than Carleton’s seven, but their efficiency was lacking in comparison. The Knights’ goalie Elaine Sundberg successfully guarded every St. Olaf shot, adding to her conference leading total of 80. While the Oles continued to struggle in generating any type of offense, Carleton added another goal of its own in the 86th minute to deliver the dagger that sent St. Olaf home with a stunning 2-0 loss.
The match was yet another devastating chapter in a dismal October that’s seen a dearth of offense from the Ole women. Through its four losses this month, St. Olaf has managed one goal total. Compared to September, when they scored eight goals in conference play alone, the offensive attack has simply gone silent.
St. Olaf needed a victory against Carleton to remain among the top six MIAC teams that eventually move on to the postseason. Instead, failing to beat a team that didn’t manage a single win in September has landed the Oles in 9th place with two games to go – one is against Augsburg, who has already clinched a playoff spot. Even if they manage to go undefeated the rest of the season, the Oles must now rely on losses for schools ranked ahead of them, such as Hamline and Macalester, in addition to their own hypothetical victories. Both those teams must confront third-place Bethel in the next couple weeks, so hope remains alive. Regardless, the Oles no longer control their own destiny, a far cry from where they stood four weeks ago.
St. Olaf has improved tremendously over their 4-win season last fall, and with only five seniors graduating this young team has a tremendously optimistic future, but for now the 2016 playoffs appear out of reach.