One week and two games. There is plenty of action to decide the playoff seeding.
As the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference winds down to the last weekend of conference play, the University of Minnesota Duluth soccer team is one of the teams fighting for the playoff berth in the NSIC Tournament.
Northern State and Minnesota State Moorhead were the victims last weekend as UMD kept its hopes alive and brought its winning streak to a season-high three games. During those three games, the Bulldogs have outshot their opponents 62-27 and also outscored them 11-5.
It was all about the sophomores for the Bulldogs.
Out of the seven goals by the Bulldogs this weekend, the sophomores accounted for all seven goals and five of the nine assists.
Sophomore forward Maureen Stormont and sophomore midfielder Hannah Keil carried the Bulldogs in the offensive assault. Keil scored her first two goals of the year while Stormont tallied three goals of her own on the weekend.
The Wolves were muzzled by the Bulldogs 4-2 when they scored four goals in the first half of play on Saturday including three of them coming within five minutes and five seconds of each other.
Keil scored in the 32nd and 36th minutes. The first one was assisted from Stormont, the other by sophomore midfielder Jennifer Smith, who had the first goal of the game. Keil would return the favor, feeding Stormont in the 37th minute to put to Bulldogs comfortably ahead 4-1 at the break.
Stormont wouldn’t be outdone. The following day Stormont booted two goals to help extinguish the Dragons 3-1. Unlike the previous game, it wasn’t until the second half when the Bulldogs finally broke the game open.
With the Bulldogs and Dragons tied at 1-1 going into the latter portion of the game, the Bulldogs were the aggressors, leading in shots 29-4 (20-2 in the second half) and finally prevailed.
Sophomore midfielder Kelli Klun marked her first goal of the season with a put back in the 64th minute and Stormont would record her third goal of the weekend in the closing minutes of the game by lobbing it over the keeper.
With the eight-point performance (three goals and two assists), Stormont now leads the team in points with 16 and leads the conference in goals with seven.
The Bulldogs sit in the ninth position in the eight-team playoff format but they are two points behind the sixth, seventh and eighth seeds. Bemidji State, St. Cloud State and Concordia-St. Paul currently occupy those spots and are deadlocked with each other at 22 points with UMD looming close behind.
UMD (7-6-2, 6-5-2 NSIC) will end their regular season with both road and home finales. They travel to Crookston for a Friday afternoon matchup before returning to Malosky Stadium for their home finale Sunday versus Bemidji State.
If UMD were to win both of their matches against Minnesota Crookston and Bemidji State, they would automatically overtake either St. Cloud State or Bemidji State because St. Cloud State and Bemidji State match up against each other on Friday.
Although there are many different scenarios that can play out, the bottom line is two wins this weekend will guarantee the Bulldogs a spot in the NSIC playoffs.
BY EVAN SMEGAL