Soccer reflects on season ahead of final conference game of the year, looks for win on senior night

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Graduate student Brookelynn Entz attempts to break through two defenders during the Oct. 10, 2021 game against Baylor. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Finishing one of the best seasons in school history since the program began in 2016, a few players and head coach Mike Dibbini from the Kansas State women’s soccer team reflects on this year’s record-breaking season.

“Yeah, as the evolution and the growth of the program, there have been a lot of things that have been done this season that haven’t been done in the past,” Dibbini said. “With the more games that we’ve won, more results in so many different ways, more total points from the results slash scoring, and the defending has been better. We’re a lot more consistent, and if you look at the RPI, it’s the highest it’s ever been, so that really shows a big step for our program.”

With the team on the verge of winning the most games in school history and possibly making the Big 12 tournament for the first time since the start of the program — barring a win against Iowa State to finish the year — many other individual records were broken or set throughout the season.

With redshirt junior goalkeeper Rachel Harris out for the season, Werremeyer was called on to step up in the goal and made the most of her opportunity.

“Everyone has ups and downs,” Werremeyer said. “So, I had some downs and I had some ups, so you know, it’s a process, and I’m just hoping to carry some confidence into the next game.”

Werremeyer was named Big 12 Goalkeeper of the Week twice for her efforts against West Virginia and Baylor, also setting a program record of 13 saves in the draw to Baylor.

“Record-breaking season, yes,” Werremeyer said. “I think we got points where people didn’t expect us to get points. I think team-wise, I don’t think we’ve ever put a better team out of the field, and I think culturally we’re doing incredible but, we want to win and our goal is the Big 12 tournament, and if we don’t make the Big 12 tournament it’s still going to be pretty bitter.”

Junior forward transfer Marisa Weichel also found her place in K-State’s record books, recording two game-winning goals this season — the most in school history.

The team broke program records with goals in a season (20), breaking the previous record of 18 in 2017, and points in a season (60), breaking the previous record of 55 also set in 2017.

It’s about more than breaking records for Weichel, though, who says the team has bigger goals in mind.

“We have this opportunity in front of us, and if we want to go to the tournament, we’ve got to win,” Weichel said. “I think we all know that, and in our practice today, the intensity and energy was high, so we know what’s at stake, and we’re super excited about it.”

However, a few things would need to happen for the Wildcats to make the Big 12 tournament. K-State would need to beat or draw with Iowa State and would need Kansas to lose to Texas.

K-State holds the tie-breaker with Kansas, meaning a Jayhawk loss and a Wildcat win would put K-State ahead in the Big 12 rankings, giving them the eighth seed in the tournament.

“It’s a make-or-break game for us,” Werremeyer said. “That means it’s go-time. There’s no option but to win for us, so that’s how we’re going into the game.”

It’s an important game for the program and team as a whole but could be the last time we see Brookelynn Entz in a K-State uniform.

“We know it’s either win or go home now,” Entz said. “We’re not putting too much pressure on ourselves, but I think that a little bit of pressure is good. I think this is a game that we know we can win, and that we should win, and I have no doubts that we’re going to win this game and I have no doubts that this will be the most exciting game in school history.”

(Archive photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)
(Archive photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

One of the most decorated players in K-State soccer history, Entz was originally supposed to end her career this past season, but with the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19, Entz took the opportunity to return to K-State.

“It’s going to be an awesome senior night,” Entz said. “We’re going to make history and get to go to the tournament for the first time, and I’m just really excited going into this game on Thursday.”

Entz currently holds school records for games started (59), goals in a season (17), points (42), assists (8) and many more records — enough to merit its own article.

You can find the full list of her accolades listed here.

“It means everything,” Entz said. “That’s the reason that I came back, that’s the reason that we started building this program. We want to see that development happen, we want to see the wins coming in, we want to see history being made and records being broken, so I think Thursday is a great opportunity to do that.”

Entz has been a part of the team since the program started in 2016, and is the only player left from Dibbini’s first year as head coach of the Wildcats.

“It will be emotional,” Dibbini said. “I’ll try to hold the emotions in, but she’s brought a lot to this program and she’s our ambassador, and there is nothing that I want more for her and her teammates and the other seniors than to win their final game of the year with a result.”

Entz isn’t the only senior being celebrated on senior night. Emily Crain, Maguire Sullivan and Taylor Gardner are also being recognized for their efforts playing for the team.

“They bleed purple,” Dibbini said. “They know what it takes, they’ve been in the trenches, they’ve had their highs and their lows, and they understand where we’ve come from, so it would mean a lot. They’ve given everything they have to this program, and we appreciate them for it, and we want to have a good send-off for them playing on their home field.”

For freshman defender Kenzi Gillispie, having three seniors to learn from in her first season has provided opportunities for growth on the field.

“I’ve learned a lot from the older players,” Gillispie said. “They’ve been in college for four or five years now, so it’s just helped me become a better player watching them and just learning from them overall.”

Kenzi is part of a special group of players on the team, playing with her sister Keila. Both have been able to make an impact on this season.

“I think we’ve had a great season,” Kenzi Gillispie said. “We’ve been competing with a lot of great teams, and it’s been a lot of fun this year. We have a chance to do something we’ve never done before Thursday night, so I think, overall, it’s been really great. It’s been fun playing with all of these new people and learning throughout the year.”

With the game against Iowa State being the last time the seniors will suit up at Buser Family Park, Werremeyer doesn’t plan on this being the last game they all play together as a team.

“So much, so much,” Werremeyer said. “Emily and ‘Mags’ have been so supportive and like the mom of the group, you know, and then Entz is one of my best friends, so it’s going to be really hard, but we’re going to win this next game so I can keep her around for a couple more weeks.”

When asking the players about their favorite memories from this season, one moment stood out from the rest.

“I’d say one of them was beating KU at KU,” Weichel said. “We had to sit through the weather delays, we were all like, ‘Are we going to play tonight or not?’ and then at halftime the lights go out, we have to run off the field when it’s pouring, and then in overtime Caylee [Thornhill] hit that banger and it was insane. I will never forget that game.”

Werremeyer is part of the consensus of players naming the Kansas game the highlight from this season.

“KU was great,” Werremeyer said. “You can’t be upset about KU, but it’s just been an incredible season, and I’m just really proud of everyone.”

For Entz, the Kansas game this year was reminiscent of a game from 2017 — a game that stands out as a favorite in her mind.

“Beating KU my freshman year,” Entz said. “Me and Dibbini are the only ones that are left here that are still remaining from that game. That was our first-ever Big 12 win, and that was a really fun game — I actually didn’t even play in that game. I was injured on the sideline going crazy, but then being able to beat KU my senior year on the field, just kind of wrapping everything up, just closing the page, was just an amazing feeling.”

Dibbini shared similar thoughts to Entz, thinking back to the first conference win in school history four seasons ago.

“That will go down as one of the most memorable games,” Dibbini said. “First Big 12 win of the year on the road at KU on their homecoming, one of the largest crowds in attendance they had. To pull an upset on the road couldn’t have been more special, and I would agree that that was probably one of our most memorable moments.”

With the amount of success that the team has had this season, Dibbini hints that this is just the beginning of the culture and status of K-State soccer.

“This season went by really, really fast,” Dibbini said. “I feel like we’re just getting started. I love coming to work. I love getting up every single day and being around a great staff and a great bunch of players that want to be a part of the program and are invested and want to get better. When those things, that culture, it’s our foundation, and it’s just fun to be around and I could feel it and I could sense it and it’s just exciting times.”

It clearly isn’t easy building a program from the ground up — for Dibbini to show growth and success with a team that started in just 2016 shows heart and desire for more. Dibbini credits his passions to the team that he coaches.

“When I wake up every morning, and I think about how excited I am to come and work with the players and the staff, that speaks volumes,” Dibbini said. “I have a great opportunity to come in every day and try to get better myself and try to help our players get better. If that feeling goes away, then there is a problem, but I wake up every morning very blessed and very excited to come to work.”

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