After practice yesterday, junior midfielder Trey Alexander was all alone. Dribbling a ball in the setting sun, it looked like he was churning the world’s problems in his mind.
He may have just been focused on the object bouncing up and down toward his face, or he may have been thinking about the importance of this weekend’s games.
Though the team is securely in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, it has to win at least one game for a chance at having a home tournament game. This can only happen if the Toppers finish among the top four teams in the conference, and there are a few challenges that could set them back.
The team has never won a Sunday game all season, but going into this weekend with a Sunday game, the Toppers say they are not intimidated by the jinx.
“I think the pressure is off us somewhat in that we are in the tournament,” coach David Holmes said. “It’s an extremely difficult road trip, and we do have some injuries, but we can be conservative with those injuries knowing that we’re in the tournament, so that is a comfort to us.”
After three weeks of home games, Western heads north to Southwest Missouri State where it will play the seventh-ranked team in the MVC.
The Bears (7-6-2, 2-4-1 MVC) only have three significant players who score or assist most of their points.
Doug Lascody leads the team with seven goals, while Jamal Sutton and Ryan Crawford each have five goals and a collective five assists. Offensively, Western will have to come out with their usually strong offense as the SMS goalkeeper averages a .735 save percentage.
But after SMS lost 2-1 against Evansville last week, the Purple Aces (8-5-3, 3-3-1 MVC) may pose more of a threat, especially for a Sunday game.
With Dan Broxup leading the team with nine goals and five assists, Western’s defense must play consistently strong throughout the entire game. Statistically, the Aces look like they play an extremely physical game, leading the conference with 34 yellow cards and two red cards. This may be a concern with so many of Western’s players injured.
“I think it inspires a lot of the guys,” freshman defender Wade Roepke said. “It does to me anyway. To be at home, not having to travel and getting to rest between games is a good reason for us to go out and play like we can.”
Reach Joanie Baker at [email protected]