Soccer set for first regular season home game

Head coach Mike Dibbini and assistant coach Gabe Romo watch the Wildcats during their scrimmage on Aug. 6, 2016, at the Kansas State Soccer Complex. (File Photo by Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

The Kansas State Wildcats finally get to play a home soccer game when they take on the University of Northern Iowa Panthers tonight at the K-State Soccer Complex.

The game against the Panthers, who are winless on the road so far this season, going 0-4-1, will commence a four-game homestand for the Wildcats.

K-State head coach Mike Dibbini said he hasn’t looked too much into that statistic.

“They still have wins under their belt,” Dibbini said. “It’s going to be a good game. They’re a team that’s been around awhile. They have a lot of returning players and obviously a new coaching staff, however, we’re a team starting from scratch and still trying to build our traditions and still trying to build our methods of play.”

Still, Dibbini said the team is excited to play at home, and he hopes it plays a part in the game.

“Having the energy from our fans and our support is going to help us quite a bit,” Dibbini said.

While he hopes there is lots of noise from the fans tonight, Dibbini said those things could create new challenges for the team.

“I honestly think it’s more of just a mentality factor on our side,” Dibbini said. “I think the biggest challenge is ‘OK, there’s going to be a lot of supporting fans, and there’s going to be a lot of positive noise that’s going to help us. Can we still focus on the game and not get distracted?'”

The Panthers, like other teams the Wildcats have faced this season, do most of their damage in the first half of games. They have scored 10 of their 14 goals in the first 45 minutes of games this season.

The Wildcats have generally been the opposite, scoring six of their 10 goals in the second half of games.

Dibbini said learning to handle first-half pressure is part of growing as a team.

“We’re a young team, and part of the process is getting better at not making as many mistakes in the first half,” Dibbini said. “Having a more high-pressure offensive mind in the first half will help us quite a bit as well.”

Redshirt junior goalkeeper Miranda Larkin is expected to start in net for the Wildcats. In six games this season, Larkin has recorded three shutouts, ranking her 30th in the country in that statistic.

Tonight’s game takes place at 7 p.m. in the K-State Soccer Complex, near Tointon Family Stadium.

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.