The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

October 17, 2012

Rueda: Maverick soccer takes a step up

— It's not often a college program can say it's No. 1, at least not literally, but in the case of the Minnesota State women's soccer team it happens to be true.

The weekly NCAA Division II poll came out on Tuesday and the Mavericks are listed atop the rankings as the No. 1 team in the country. Their record is 12-1-1 and they are riding a 10-match winning streak.

It marks just the fourth time in MSU history that a team has been ranked No. 1 during the season. Back on Feb. 1 of 2005, the men's basketball team was rated No. 1 and on Feb. 7 of 2008 the wrestling team earned the top ranking.

The most recent time, until now, was on March 31 in 2009 when the MSU women's basketball squad topped the charts. The women's basketball team went on to win the national championship that season.

Head soccer coach Peter McGahey said his team is honored to be in such company.

"It's neat to be recognized by the coaches across the country," he said. "It's cool and it acknowledges and recognizes the tremendous effort the student athletes have put in both on and off the field."

A look at the Minnesota State stat sheet indicates the 2012 team is a balanced one. Eight players have at least 10 points and the same eight have at least three goals apiece. Nicole Dooher is the team's leading scorer with five goals and 10 assists (20 points).

Through 14 matches the Mavericks have outscored their opponents 41-6. They are averaging 22.5 shots on goal per game compared to 5.4 for the opposition.

As well as MSU has played on offense, the defense has even been better. The defenders rarely allow opponents to take close-in shots at the goal and, when they do, keeper Molly McGough has usually been there to stop them.

McGough's stats are, in a word, impressive. She is 12-1-1 with a .868 save percentage and a 0.37 goals-against average. She has shut out eight of her last nine opponents and has a school-record 20 shutouts for her career.

McGahey said he and his players talked about the possibility of getting the No. 1 ranking on Monday before the poll came out. His players were understandably excited about the prospect.

"They were jazzed up about it," he said. "The reality is we're only the (fourth) team in school history to be ranked No. 1 and that's something they can never take away from our players. They're pumped up and they're humbled and they're hungry to get better."

Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at jrueda@mankatofreepress.com

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