In its five years of existence, the Kansas State soccer team never played a top-five ranked team and never beat a team ranked in the Top 25. All of that almost changed on Sunday afternoon as the Wildcats hosted No. 5 TCU at a cold and soggy Buser Family Park.
Going into halftime against the Horned Frogs (6-0-1), the Wildcats (1-6-0) had a 2-0 lead thanks to beautiful unassisted strikes from outside the box by senior midfielder Maddie Souder in the eighteenth minute and from senior midfielder Brookelynn Entz seven minutes later.
The saying that a 2-0 lead is the most dangerous lead in soccer, unfortunately, held true for the Wildcats.
TCU struck early in the second half, scoring in the forty-sixth minute thanks to the Horned Frogs’ sophomore midfielder Gracie Brian, who connected on a shot right in front of the net to widdle the Wildcats’ lead down to 2-1. Then freshman Olivia Hasler midfielder had her own strike from outside the box for the equalizer at the seventy-seventh minute, sending the game into overtime.
It didn’t take long for TCU to hit the game-winner, as sophomore forward Grace Collins connected on a shot from the left side of the box, sending the Horned Frogs’ bench into a frenzy and handing the Wildcats a heartbreaking defeat.
“I was really happy in the first half when we were up 2-0, but we talked about it in the locker room — that 2-0 is a dangerous lead,” Entz said. “We’ve been there before against Oklahoma, and we put the game away with them. We let TCU get back in the game in the first five minutes. I think we really wish we had this game back.”
Even with the loss, K-State was on the cusp of doing something the program had yet to do before — defeat a ranked opponent. Despite the loss, head coach Mike Dibbini said he felt the game was still a moral victory for the Wildcats since they showed their ability to compete well against one of the top teams in the nation.
“I thought we had a really good performance despite the result,” Dibbini said. “We were very disruptive in defense, had some really nice goals, but that’s an experienced team and they just never seem to go away. When you have a bunch of junior and seniors in the Big 12 that play together for a long time, it shows and that’s what they did today. It’s unfortunate, it’s a tough loss, but we learned a lot about ourselves today.”
K-State bombarded the TCU defense throughout the match, getting 17 shots off compared to TCU’s 15. The Horned Frogs had the advantage on shots on goal, however, getting six on target compared to the Wildcats’ four.
Of those four shots on goal, Entz’s and Souder’s goals helped build a lot of momentum going into the halftime break. Both goals were sights to see as they connected from deep, getting past TCU senior goalkeeper Emily Alvarado, who had allowed just one goal the entire season going into Sunday’s match.
“I think we definitely challenged her and we saw that she was struggling a little bit there in the first couple of minutes with our shots from afar,” Souder said. “I think it was just building our attack and shooting from distance. That wind definitely helped us in the first half, and I think that’s what got us those first two goals, mine at least.”
Even with the early success and the constant barrage of shots, the match really came down to how the Wildcats started out the second half.
For Entz, she knows the most important points in a match are in the first and last five minutes, saying that 60 percent of goals are scored in that time range. On Sunday, TCU scored in the first minute of the second half, and that’s what started the Wildcats downfall.
“Those are the moments we need to work on and we really need to turn on,” Entz said. “I think we came out and we just thought we were going to win the game. TCU came at us and we just kind of let them play around us and we were just playing defense. We just let them keep coming at us.”
After competing in such a tight game against a nationally ranked opponent, it is hard to not be excited for the things that are just around the corner for the Wildcats, especially with such a young roster. Dibbini sees it that way, understanding that as the team begins to grow, these close situations will soon turn into victories.
“Just continue to understand and believe, and play through adversity,” Dibbini said. “It’s a challenge. This is a mental hurdle, and we’re in that situation where we have the pieces and we have the tools, it’s just that we’re younger. You come here and you’ve got two soccer teams playing and battling and that’s what it was. It’s always matchups in the Big 12, but experience is a key factor. You have to be juniors and seniors – been around, done that – for us to get over these key moments.”
The soccer team travels to Ames, Iowa, on Friday for an evening matchup with Iowa State. K-State is 1-2 all-time against the Cyclones, but won during their meeting last year, 2-1.