K-State soccer reflects on season positives; work remains for offseason

Freshman midfielder Laramie Hall looks down after a tough loss to the University of Northern Iowa. The Wildcats look on to play their next game against Oral Roberts University on Sept. 23, 2016. (File Photo by Nick Horvath | The Collegian)

With Thursday’s 2-0 loss to Illinois State, the Kansas State women’s soccer team moved into the offseason.

Though sub-.500, Evansville made it to the NCAA Tournament last year with a 6-10-3 record, and they won their conference tournament last season. However, the Wildcats’ status as independents makes it likely they’ll be left out when the tournament competitors are announced Nov. 7.

That leaves the Wildcats looking ahead to next season.

Though they ended up with a losing record this season, the Wildcats had a few games slip into the loss and draw columns that could have easily bounced into the win column. There was the second game, a scoreless 0-0 draw in Edwardsville, Illinois, against SIUE, in which freshman midfielder Dora Gallo led all players with three shots on goal and K-State was outshot in the category by just one shot on goal.

Then there was the Sept. 23 game against Oral Roberts, the team’s second game at home, in which K-State led 1-0 until a goal in the 88th minute by Oral Roberts sent the game into overtime and an eventual draw.

“There were definitely at least four games that we should have won or at least tied,” said freshman midfielder Laramie Hall. “In that aspect, we know that we’re capable of a lot more than we’re giving, which is good considering that we’re going to be in the Big 12 next year.”

There were the continual runs by sophomore forward Tatum Wagner and by Hall herself, as one or the other charged into opposing territory, trying to set up offenses that were still developing chemistry.

That process, however, is well underway, Hall said.

“I think our team is extremely close, especially for everyone just getting here this year,” Hall said.

Head coach Mike Dibbini said he and the other coaches are generally more focused on what the team has to work on rather than on the positives, but this season, he admitted there were at least a few.

“Realistically, I think we’ve done the improbable,” Dibbini said. “Winning games, drawing games and losing (and) learning (from) a lot of close games. Going into the season I felt the talk was ‘are we going to win a game?’ We got through that stage. Now we’re in the stage of trying to perform at the level and get better going into next year. I think that’s where we’re at right now.”

The team grew a lot in just a single season, Dibbini said.

“Sometimes I wish we could go back to the beginning of the year and play all over again and I think the results would be different,” Dibbini said. “We’ve evolved, not only as a team, (but) individually we’ve gotten more comfortable with each other. The chemistry has gotten better.”

Hall said the Wildcats will have some challenges when they play next season but believes the way they play will make them competitive.

“I think that we’re definitely not as big as most teams in the Big 12 and we’re not maybe as strong or as fast,” Hall said. “We are more technical and we can play around teams while kind of kicking the ball, so like a fast type of technicality without just kicking it.”

The team’s identity will continue to develop, Dibbini said. He also said the team will have to take what it learned this year, remembering to play all 90 minutes and to play with the same intensity regardless of the opponent’s record.

All of these elements, Dibbini said, are part of the mental side of the game, which isn’t stressed enough when players are young.

“As soccer players grow up, we (the coaches) talk about the technical aspect,” Dibbini said. “We talk about the tactical aspect, we talk about the physical aspect, which is all very important. But the mentality and the mental aspect of the game at this level plays a huge role on making and breaking a team and the coach of the team. So I think that’s probably the most important thing going into the spring and going into next year.”

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.