Excitement for soccer is high despite early struggles

Freshman forward Katie Cramer catches up to the ball during the purple-white scrimmage at the K-State Soccer Complex on Aug. 6, 2016. White defeated Purple, 2-0. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

When the Kansas State soccer team took the field this weekend for its first two regular season games, K-State sports history was written.

In a weekend full of “firsts,” the Wildcats still gave their fans reason to get excited.

There was the first shot, which came courtesy of redshirt sophomore defender Haley Sutter 37 minutes into the game against Saint Louis on Friday.

There was the first regular season goal, which came on a deflected corner by freshman forward Katie Cramer against Saint Louis, which not only gave the Wildcats their first ever regular season goal ever, but also kept them from getting shutout for the first time.

Then there was game two, against Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. It was the first time the Wildcats had ever, in regulation or in exhibition, gone to overtime or double overtime. There was the team’s first draw and the first shutout by a Wildcat goalkeeper, earned by redshirt junior Miranda Larkin, who made six saves in 110 minutes of play against SIUE.

Sure, the draw in the SIUE game was the first time the Wildcats were held scoreless, but in a feisty game with 23 combined fouls, the Wildcats bent but didn’t break.

Despite the weekend’s loss, the improvements that led to the draw in the second game should give fans hope. A number of “firsts” remain for the Wildcats. The Wildcats first regular season win remains ahead of them, though how far off is hard to say. Their opponent this Friday, the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, finished last season ranked 132 in the NCAA, a whole 70 spots higher than Saint Louis and all of 155 spots higher than SIUE, according to the NCAA Women Soccer rankings.

Also awaiting the Wildcats is their first conference game and their first conference win, but each of those will have to wait until next year when the team officially begins Big 12 play, a blessing in disguise many fans may not recognize.

The Big 12, for those who haven’t been keeping track, is stacked when it comes to women’s soccer.

West Virginia finished ranked No. 7 after going 19-3-1 last season. Texas Tech, which finished No. 18, went 14-4-5.

Even the University of Texas, which will be K-State’s lone opponent this year from the conference, came in ranked No. 76 last year, behind Kansas at No. 69 and Oklahoma at No. 51.

Running that gauntlet in an inaugural season would have been dangerous with such a young fanbase and a team that includes 22 freshmen, seven sophomores, six juniors and a lone senior.

If nothing else, though, fans can look forward to their first regular season home game, coming Sept. 16. The Wildcats have gone through some early season jitters, but have started with the unenviable task of having to work those out on the road.

Six games from now, those kinks will be worked out, so get excited.

Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.