KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Heart of America Athletic Conference women's soccer teams begin their head-to-head matchups this weekend as conference play begins with MidAmerica Nazarene hosting Missouri Valley in the HAAC Game of the Week.
The Matchup: Missouri Valley (5-3-0) at MidAmerica Nazarene (5-4-0), Pioneer Field, Olathe, Kan., 12:00 p.m.
Last Season: Missouri Valley 3, MidAmerica Nazarene 1 (Oct. 1, 2011 - Marshall, Mo.)
Last 5 Seasons: Missouri Valley leads, 3-2
About the Vikings: There is no greater disappointment to a soccer player than seeing a season come to an end via penalty kicks. Missouri Valley played a scoreless tie with Avila in the HAAC Tournament before falling 5-4 on penalties. The Vikings were off to a great start this season before a pair of losses last week in Oklahoma took the shine off a first month that was highlighted by a season-opening victory over 9th-ranked Westmont (Calif.). Breann Kinworthy leads the offense with four goals.
About the Pioneers: Following a four-match winning streak to start the season, MNU has lost four of five that includes a 4-0 loss at Ottawa on Wednesday evening. The Pioneers' defense was on lock down during three straight shutouts, but has since allowed 16 goals during the current 1-4 stretch. First-year head coach Skelly Kellar will be looking for veterans Ashton Bergh and Kara Collins to set the tone as MNU looks to turn its recent form around and get off to a winning start in league play.
Round One Previews
Benedictine (10-1) at Culver-Stockton (7-1-1), Ayers Field, Canton, Mo., 1:00 p.m.
Last Season: Benedictine 8, Culver-Stockton 0 (Oct. 1, 2011 - Atchison, Kan.)
About the Ravens: The highest scoring team in the NAIA at this point in the season calls Atchison, Kansas home. The Ravens have 62 goals and are also averaging a NAIA-best 25.7 shots per game The defense has also been stellar with seven clean sheets as Ashley Holland is 4th in the nation with a 0.22 goals against average. Bethany Smith leads the Ravens with 14 goals while Tara Russell has 13 tallies. Benedictine has scored four or more goals seven times while also possessing a pair of 1-0 wins.
About the Wildcats: In a league where all eight teams boast a winning record thus far, the most impressive start to the season belongs to Culver-Stockton, which has already eclipsed last season's win total with seven and has to feel good about its chances to snap a 45-game winless streak in league play. The Wildcats rebounded from their only loss thus far to claim back-to-back wins over the last week and boast a defense that has allowed just four goals in nine contests. Jordan Sergi leads the team with six goals and five assists while Brittney McMahon also has six goals.
#18 Graceland (9-2-0) at Avila (6-3-1), Zarda Athletic Complex, Kansas City, Mo., 1:00 p.m.
Last Season: Avila 2, Graceland 2 (Oct. 1, 2011 - Lamoni, Iowa)
About the Yellowjackets: The longest current winning streak in the conference belongs to Graceland, which has captured five-straight matches following back-to-back losses earlier this month. Junior GK Stefany Castano Cardozo has returned from the Colombian Olympic Team and continued to be a strong presence in the nets while fellow Colombian Gisela Arrieta currently ranks in the NAIA Top 10 in points (28) and goals (12). The Yellowjackets have scored at least twice in each of their nine wins.
About the Eagles: If Avila could take out its first game of the season and the last one it played against Ashford (Iowa) last Saturday, the season would look almost flawless. A 6-0 loss to Westminster (Utah) and 6-2 defeat last weekend have only slightly tarnished a solid start to the season. The Eagles have also shown a potent scoring touch with six outings that have included at least three goals scored. Senior forward Alyssa D'Egidio leads the team with six goals and three assists while Caryn Welch has five goals.
Central Methodist (6-2) at #12 Baker (5-2-1), Liston Stadium, Baldwin City, Kan., 3:00 p.m. (Sunday, September 30)
Last Season: Central Methodist 2, Baker 1 (Oct. 2, 2011 - Fayette, Mo.)
About the Eagles: An outstanding start to the season ran into some trouble on Tuesday night when Central Methodist was overwhelmed at Park (Mo.), 5-0. The Eagles put that loss behind them on Thursday and claimed a 4-1 win over Bethel (Kan.) despite giving up the first goal of the match. Sophomore Lindie Adair is the team's leading scorer with six goals while Kayla Leeser has three goals and two assists. Brittany Andert has allowed just over a goal per game to help anchor a backline with three clean sheets.
About the Wildcats: Baker saw a six-match winning streak snapped last season in its conference opener at Central Methodist before going on to win the conference and advance to the quarterfinal round of the NAIA Tournament. This time around, the Wildcats enter league play after a 1-0 loss at McPherson (Kan.) last Sunday prior to a Friday evening match against Mid American Christian (Okla.) and should not be surprised by a youthful CMU squad a second time. Jordan Dolbin continues to the pull the strings in midfield for Baker and has tallied four goals and five assists while Alexa Fryer leads the team with six goals.