Nerves riddled the women's soccer team Thursday as it prepared for the deciding game of whether it would earn a bid into the Mid-American Conference Tournament against Bowling Green. But according to head coach Ron Rainey, the team had to focus those nerves.
"I'd be lying to you as a coach if I told you I wasn't nervous going into the game," Rainey said. "If you're not nervous as a coach, then you shouldn't be coaching. But sports psychologist Chris Carr told the team a little saying, 'Everyone is going to have butterflies in their stomach, but to be successful, you've got to make those butterflies fly in formation.'"
The Cardinals (11-5-2 overall, 5-5-2 MAC) were in perfect formation as they dominated the slower Falcons squad 3-0.
Rainey said going into the match that the team needed to have a hot start, and the team did not disappoint. The team out-shot the Falcons 12-1 in the opening half en route to a 1-0 halftime lead.
But solid play by Bowling Green's goalie Erika Flanders kept them in the game.
But the deciding moment in the game came only nine minutes into the second half as freshman Kate Nadalin was fouled by Flanders in front of the goal, leading to a penalty kick. Senior Julie Pigozzo put the penalty kick in, making it look all too easy.
"I was actually kind of nervous," Pigozzo said. "But I just took a couple of deep breaths, and I just placed the ball right. It sure wasn't as easy as it may have looked."
But according to Rainey, the team was not safe with just a two-goal lead. It wasn't until Eileen Weinheimer scored the final goal that the team was able to let go a sigh of relief.
"Two goals wasn't safe," Rainey said. "The next one was the one that gave us an edge. But in this game, we didn't even feel safe with a three-goal lead."
Even though the offense was clicking on all cylinders, it was the defense that guided the Cards to victory as it only allowed four total shots and only two shots on goal. And on those two shots, goalie Megan Swafford had to make solid plays to prevent the ball from hitting the net.
"We really defended well," Rainey said. "Megan Swafford made some great saves on good opportunities by Bowling Green. It was the best defensive effort I think we've had all year."
One of the players that anchored the defense, junior Ehren Reagor, is one of seven players to have been on the team every year of its three-year existence. And according to Reagor, the MAC Tournament has been their goal all along.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Reagor said. "For three years, we had our goal set at the beginning of the year. But maybe next year we won't wait till the last game of the season to make the tournament. But we did it."