The first one is always the hardest. When it comes to wins, Coach Tim Walters and the Omaha Maverick Women’s Soccer team found that to be entirely too true. However, on Friday night, they found that the challenge can also make that first win so much more rewarding.
A difficult start to the year saw the Mavericks enter their home game against Missouri State with an 0-4-1 record. The team was back at Caniglia Field after a two game road stand. Their most recent result was a hard fought draw against North Dakota, which offered signs of success, but the elusive first win was still missing.
Missouri State had no plans to make getting that first win any easier. The Bears started strong out of the gate, as they largely controlled play in the first half. The final shot tally for the half was 10 for the Bears, compared to only two for the Mavericks.
One of those shots found the back of the net. In the 29th minute, Missouri State’s Kayleigh Putnam took advantage of a long pass into the box and volleyed home the opening goal. That goal would prove to be the difference at halftime.
The Maverick team that took the field in the second half looked completely different and showed a much more spirited offensive effort. Coach Walter made special note of his team’s improvement stating, “[It was] a tale of two halves. I thought the first half we were flat and were a little unprepared. But the second half, we challenged them and they had a phenomenal second half. We came out and we pressed. We played with more intensity and we really outworked them in the second half.”
Omaha’s improved play was eventually rewarded in the form of a breakthrough goal in the 51st minute. A through pass from Abby Meader to Natalie Johnson saw the forward run past two defenders, before sliding the ball past the Missouri State goalie. The goal was Johnson’s second on the season and the Maverick’s first goal in four games.
The Mavericks would continue to threaten the opposition goal throughout the rest of the second half, but came away empty handed. A stifling performance from the backline of Omaha would ensure that the Missouri State offense wasn’t nearly as potent in the second half. Regular time would end tied at 1-1.
Golden goal overtime was up next for both teams. For the Mavericks, this was their second OT in as many games.
The outcome of the game wouldn’t be in question for too much longer. Five minutes into overtime, Omaha was awarded a free kick in a dangerous position. A good ball into the box from Emily Romero found the head of Abby Meader, who flicked it past a surprised Missouri State goalkeeper. The goal ended the game, giving Omaha the 2-1 win.
The win was Walter’s first as a head coach and one that will certainly be remembered for some time, especially as the program grows in the future. “Culturally, that is what our program needs to continue to be about. We had outstanding accountability and leadership from our upperclassmen, and we outworked them in the second half and overtime. I’m so proud of the team for how they responded and overcame some adversity with being down 1-0 at halftime,” said Walters.
The team proved that they not only had the ability to win, but also the ability to win tough. This Omaha team seemed to possess certain intangibles that are indicative of a well-coached and well-organized team. The Mavericks displayed an ability to bend, but not break, in the comeback win, and at no point did they seem to give up on the game or be out of it.
With a mark in the win column and a return to offensive form, the Mavericks will be sure to carry the success of this win into the remainder of their schedule.
Omaha is back on the road for their next two games. They visit UMKC on Sept. 10 and they play at cross-town rival, Creighton, on Sept. 16.