The Kansas State soccer team entered the 2021 campaign without a single positive result against a top 25 ranked opponent. Now, as we near the final four matches of the regular season, the Wildcats (6-6-2, 1-2-2 Big 12) have two draws against ranked Big 12 opponents. Earning draws against No. 9 West Virginia (1-1) and No. 23 Baylor (0-0), the Wildcats have a lot to point their recent success towards. A lot of it goes towards sophomore goalkeeper Alaina Werremeyer.
Werremeyer had nine saves against West Virginia and a program-record 13 saves against Baylor over this past weekend. For her stellar efforts against top 25 opponents, Werremeyer was named Big 12 Goalkeeper of the Week for the second week in a row.
— K-State Soccer (@KStateSOC) October 12, 2021
“It’s amazing, she’s very confident right now, making huge saves for us,” super-senior Brookelynn Entz said. “I think that she’s really grown into a mature goalkeeper. She’s one of the reasons we’re getting these results right now, and it’s huge for us to have that trust with our keeper.”
Junior Marisa Weichel said that Werremeyer’s play takes some of the load off of the rest of the team.
“She’s been playing lights out,” Weichel said. “It’s so much fun to watch her play. It’s like a stress reliever for everyone else to have someone we trust. Shots are going to happen from both sides, so to have a keeper we trust is great to have.”
The biggest moment of the match against No. 23 Baylor came in the 82nd minute when Baylor was awarded a penalty kick. Luckily, Werremeyer stepped up in the spotlight, blocking the potential go-ahead goal.
“It was definitely frustrating,” Werremeyer said. “That’s not what you want with six minutes left in the game. I just had to lock in, focus on the kick and not let my head go anywhere else. I love PKs. It’s my favorite part of the job. I like the pressure, and I like the risk/reward payoff.”
Part of the reason Werremeyer was prepared for the situation was because of the help provided by first-year goalkeeper coach David Romay. Before K-State, Romay was a goalkeeper coach for the Houston Dynamo developmental academy, bringing professional experience to the Wildcats.
“It’s excellent,” head coach Mike Dibbini said. “He’s done a really nice job understand players’ strengths and weaknesses in goal. He keeps developing and they’re getting coaching experience from a pro-level.”
Werremeyer said she’s learned a lot from Romay.
“He’s an incredible coach, and he’s coached at the highest levels,” Werremeyer said. “We’re blessed to have him at such a young program. He’s incredible at his job. We’ve seen a lot of development in our goalkeeper unit with him as a coach.”
Outside of Werremeyer, the Wildcats are shifting their focus from making the Big 12 tournament to perhaps winning some games in the tournament.
“We need to keep playing how we’re playing to make the Big 12 tournament, but let’s put ourselves in a good position to get a good seed,” Weichel said.
While it has been exciting for the program to pick up two non-losses against ranked opponents for the first time in program history, Werremeyer said she’s still not happy with not getting wins in the contest.
“We can’t complain about points in conference, but I don’t like the idea of being satisfied with ties,” Werremeyer said. “No one in this conference is happy with a tie — you want to win, no matter who you’re playing. We definitely didn’t start conference play the way we wanted to, but to steal a couple points has really revamped us.”
Dibbini said that being happy with these results has been a problem with the program in the past.
“I don’t think anybody really thought going into the last three matches that we would take five points, especially against really good teams. That’s been the common denominator the last few years,” Dibbini said. “But we, as a coaching staff, believe we can do it if we focus on the details. Complacency is something we worry about, but we have so much depth that there’s no room for complacency.”
Dibbini said he still thinks the results of the past week will help the team moving forward.
“Anytime you can do what we did this weekend, it builds confidence,” Dibbini said. “The Big 12 is a gauntlet. There’s no easy match. It gives us the ability we can do what we believe. We can play with anybody.”
The Wildcats head to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to take on Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. on Thursday, followed by a trip to Norman, Oklahoma, taking on Oklahoma at 1 p.m on Sunday. Both matches will be streamed live, with Thursday’s game being broadcasted on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ and Sunday’s on Bally Sports Oklahoma.