By Avery Wenck, Asst. Sports Editor
While the regular season is definitely an important part of the year for Omaha athletics, it cannot compare to the importance and competitive nature of conference play. The Mavericks understand how important it is to win the Summit League regular season since they are in the last year of their postseason ban.
The women’s team has had a largely disappointing year, going 2-8 before conference play, including a 0-6 away record. Despite this, they’ve kept their heads up and have pushed on to start conference play 1-0-2 including an important win last Sunday on the road against No. 25 Denver.
Junior Hannah Wampler would get things started with an impressive free kick from 25 yards out. Junior midfielder Chelsi Rohloff would prove to be the difference for the Mavericks in that game, notching an impressive two goals on three shots including the game winner in double overtime. Rohloff’s two goals were assisted by sophomore Lydia Holtmann and junior Marin Dregelid, who gets her first of the season. Head Coach Don Klosterman was pleased with the weekend, and felt it was a good start to conference play.
“Winning the conference is one of our goals,” Klosterman said. “When you look at the schedule and see that we have to go to Denver, play the best team in the league who has yet to lose and you win, you have to be pretty darn happy with that kind of a start.”
The women’s team returned for their first home game in three weeks on Friday night against North Dakota State at Caniglia Field. They were gifted a penalty in the 29th minute as the ball was handled by a Bison player just inside the penalty box. Wampler stepped up to take the penalty, put the keeper off and coolly slotted it home for the opener.
The Mavericks looked to get another goal in the 48th minute when a defensive error put junior forward Kyla Booker through on goal. However, she was hauled to the ground from behind by Tristyn Walczak who would earn herself a red card in the process.
North Dakota State midfielder Amy Yang scored unassisted in the 80th minute with a low drive into the bottom right corner past sophomore goalkeeper Haley Shelton. The Bison would stand tough the rest of the game and earn themselves a point. Despite the draw, Klosterman has happy with his team.
“I felt good about our team and the way we played,” Klosterman said. “We did create and that’s a big thing. Their keeper came up with some pretty incredible saves today. We need to come back and get a win on Sunday.”
Shelton, who started the year off as a defender, had to switch to goalkeeper due to various reasons, and has cemented her spot as Omaha’s No. 1. Klosterman praised his keeper prior to the game on Friday:
“She’s done well. Haley is a very determined person, very strong and has a strong personality. She does a lot of the little things very well and she just works at it and keeps getting better. I give her a lot of credit to step in and play a position she’s really never played in her life.”
The Mavericks now sit second in the conference standings with five points, and will face Drake in non-conference play on Sunday.
After three Summit League games, the Omaha men’s soccer team finds themselves tied for second at four points with preseason No. 1 Denver, who have a game in hand.
They started their conference play with a 1-0 win against Eastern Illinois at home. That lone goal came in the 78th minutes through senior Vance Rookwood after bringing down a ball in the area from sophomore Christian Garcia. Omaha was not at their best but showed a fighting spirit to grind out a win and earn the three points.
“It wasn’t maybe our best performance, but I never felt the game was in question,” said Head Coach Jason Mims. “We controlled the game from the opening whistle and it was a tough game. Those guys did a fantastic job and are a tough side.”
The second game of conference play would pit the Mavericks against Oral Roberts, who currently sit tied for last, their only point coming against Omaha. It would be a tough, physical battle for both teams and would eventually finish a 0-0 draw.
The physicality showed as there were 34 fouls in total, 20 for Omaha and 14 for Oral Roberts. The Mavericks will feel they could have came away with more than a point, but with Denver also drawing Eastern Illinois, Omaha’s Summit League title hopes still remain.
In their most recent game, the Maverick men suffered defeat against Summit League co-leaders Western Illinois. In what was an even game, Omaha was unfortunate to concede in the ninth minute to Austin Gochneaur for his second of the season. Omaha had their chances and junior midfielder Logan Mendez would end up with Omaha’s only two shots on goal.
The men’s team will go on the road this weekend to play Bradley before resuming conference play on Oct. 25 against preseason No. 1 Denver at Caniglia. The women will start a three-match home stretch of conference games on Sunday when they host South Dakota State at Caniglia Field.