For nine North Dakota State Bison soccer players, Thursday was the last day they kicked a ball at Dacotah Field. The number one seeded Bison dropped the opener of the Summit League Championship to Oral Roberts, 2-0. The Bison finish the season 10-8-1 and denied a NCAA Tournament berth.
From the kickoff, the game consisted of a frantic midfield battle. Both teams turned the ball over in the middle third of the park consistently in the opening minutes.
Brittany Monteon had the first chance for the Bison. After beating her defender on the right side, she drove down the end line before blasting a rising effort into the side net.
The Bison found themselves down on the quarter hour after a mix-up on the backline. Golden Eagles’ forward Lexi Jones pounced on miscommunication to go one-on-one with Bison goalkeeper Monica Polgar. The freshman keeper was unable to make the stop and Jones slotted home. It was Jones’ league leading 11th goal of the year.
The best chance of the day came just six minutes later, as midfielder Roxy Roemer sent a curling shot goalward. ORU goalkeeper Ryliegh Bohnenstiehl was beaten at full stretch, but the ball curled just past the far post and out for a goal kick.
Oral Roberts began to put their hold on the game after the half hour mark. The exclamation point of this came minutes before halftime when Kelli Keller went for goal from 25 yards out. The thunderous effort screamed over Polgar’s cross bar, leaving the Bison a goal down at the break.
The Golden Eagles continued to win the midfield battle in the second half. The Bison failed to find a rhythm in the middle of the park.
The job for NDSU became harder 10 minutes after the restart, when Brittany Lawrence doubled the Golden Eagle lead. Polgar made the initial save but the rebound landed at the ORU forward’s feet for an easy tap in.
The response from the Bison was to solidify the midfield passing game, and did so with success. The Bison held possession more in the final 30 minutes.
The ORU backline held strong and did not allow the Bison attack to get in behind.
Forced to play in front of the defense, the Bison strung together series of passes, but ultimately lacked the cutting edge.
Amy Yang tested Bohnenstiehl with a shot from the out of the box. The keeper made the diving save to keep the shutout.
Bison’s leading goal scorer Holly Enderle finally broke through the ORU defense with ten minutes left, but failed to connect on the shot.
“It’s tough to swallow, we had a good year and came up just short again,” Bison head coach Mark Cook summed up the feelings after the match.
NDSU will graduate nine seniors from the class that represents Cook’s first recruiting class.
Even in defeat, Cook still admired the work of the seniors, “I am proud of everything they have done, they are our culture, our team.”