Recent games improve team mentality, tough games ahead

No. 18 St. Edward’s University women’s soccer team had two close home games last week that were “eye-opening” to say the least.

The defending Heartland Conference (HC) champion Hilltoppers are currently 9-3 overall with a 3-1 HC record. As of Monday, St. Edward’s stands fourth in the conference behind Lubbock Christian University (5-0), St. Mary’s University (4-1) and Dallas Baptist University (3-0-1).

“This hasn’t really been a season where we’ve had like a linear improvement … and I think that’s a function of so many young players on the team,” Head Women’s Soccer Coach Nick Cowell says referring to his 45-member team comprised of 22 freshmen and only five seniors, according to the SEU Athletics roster.

“Our goal is to be one of the four teams that make it to the conference tournament. From there, win the conference tournament … to ensure that we get a bid to the NCAA tournament,” Cowell adds. “That’s where our focus is — winning the next game … and then get ready for the game after that.”

Most recently, St. Edward’s played against Texas A&M Commerce, winning in a 1-0 shutout on Oct. 18.

Throughout the game, St. Edward’s showed a strong team effort with defensive pressure and good ball passes. Most importantly, the team had good communication with junior goalkeeper Lorrie Santoy leading the verbal encouragement towards her team from the backfield.

“It’s a really big part of my job — making sure that everyone is aware of what’s going on and what they can’t see, because from back there I can see everything,” Santoy says. “Being loud is just keeping the intensity up in the game. Not only can they hear me, but they know what’s important and needs to get done … so that we’re not getting beat behind us and always protecting the goal.”

On Oct. 15, St. Edward’s lost 1-2 to their conference rival Dallas Baptist due to “elementary mistakes,” Cowell said. This game was highly anticipated as both teams have either won or shared the conference title in the past five seasons, according to SEU Athletics.

“It was kind of an eye-opener. We know we can’t take things for granted, that we have to come out and work hard every single game. No matter if it’s a team that’s lowest in our conference or it’s a top team in our conference,” Santoy says. “Coming out every game prepared, playing like it’s a playoff game, playing like it’s the most important game of the season — that’s what that game really gave us, a little eye-opening.”

With some of their toughest Heartland Conference games ahead, this hardworking mentality will prove to be pivotal as St. Edward’s womens’ soccer plays their last four regular season matchups at home.

St. Edward’s (3-1 HC) will host the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (3-2 HC) on Thursday at 3:30 pm.