It took a Southwest Minnesota State penalty kick Sunday for the Minot State University women's soccer team to finally yield a goal.
The score ended a three-match shutout streak for MSU, which spanned 360 minutes of game time. The Beavers (4-1-1 overall, 2-1 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) hadn't given up a goal since a 1-0 overtime loss to the University of Mary on Sept. 2.
"It's basically like we're a little family back there," freshman defender Breanne Hatheld said. "We have a solid five with (senior) Marie (Torres) at (goalkeeper). It's not like one person stands out, it's the whole defense. It's called a wall so you can't really get past it."
Minot State University senior goalkeeper Marie Torres prepares to boot the ball downfield during MSU’s win against Southwest Minnesota State on Sunday at Herb Parker Stadium. Torres is anchoring an MSU defense that has allowed just three goals in six matches this season.
Lewis Theobald, the coach of then-No. 8 Central Missouri, complimented the Beavers' defensive organization after the Jennies and MSU played to a scoreless tie. (Central Missouri dropped out of the poll this week). SMSU coach T.J. Buchholz echoed those sentiments after MSU's 2-1 win over the Mustangs on Sunday.
"They organize themselves really well," said Buchholz, whose team had scored two or more goals in their previous four games. "Typically in soccer, you play with four (defenders) and they have five so it's another level of defender that you have to get by. I think that's always tough to break down and they're good with their pressure."
With MSU coach Jason Spain's penchant for playing about 10 subs per game, several defenders play a role on the Beavers' shut-down back line. But Spain singled out juniors Jessica Parker and Taylor Carlstrom as the leaders of the group and said they play a dual stopper role.
The importance of the back line is not lost on MSU sophomore forward Zoe Fisher, who leads the team with five goals.
"I believe they're the best defense in the conference," Fisher said. "Every girl on defense puts 110 percent in. Without them, we wouldn't be winning and I wouldn't be getting my goals from their through balls."
The MSU defense has been so good that in some games the goalie is barely challenged. But when an opposing team does fire a quality shot, it usually ends up in the arms of the athletic, 5-foot-11 Torres. She has 33 saves and a .917 save percentage this season and was named the NSIC defensive player of the week after shutouts against Central Missouri and Southwest Baptist University (Mo.).
"We can always count on her," Hatheld said. "She works extremely hard and she's just naturally born talented. Put those two together - hard work and talent - and we couldn't be happier to have the best keeper in the league."
The Beavers play at Upper Iowa University (5-1, 2-1) at 11 a.m. Saturday. The teams are tied for fifth place in the 16-team NSIC.
O'Keefe continues surprising start
Minot State University sophomore Kowan O'Keefe was named the NSIC men's golfer of the week for the second time this season after winning the Concordia University, St. Paul Invitational by five strokes on Monday.
The Blind Bay, British Columbia, native's stellar start to the season surprised coach Chipper Farrell. O'Keefe won the individual title at the Augustana Luxury Mall Auto Classic earlier this month despite not being one of the five MSU golfers selected for varsity competition.
"I think he just feels real comfortable," Farrell said. "If you told me before the season he'd win two tournaments, he'd have been my fifth pick on the team. He plays very smart, very intelligent and takes what the course gives him. He makes very few mistakes."
O'Keefe was the Beavers' No. 6 golfer as a freshman two seasons ago. He redshirted last season and feels more seasoned this year.
"Mentally, I'm probably a little sharper than I was before, hit the ball a little bit farther, but more than anything - just more experience," O'Keefe said. "I played a lot of tournaments in the summer."
Farrell said O'Keefe is composed - a trait that proved helpful when the golfer held the lead during a nearly six-hour final round at the Concordia University Invitational. O'Keefe followed his opening-round 69 with a 74 to win the tournament.
"It's obviously hard to not think about the end of the round and the chance of winning, but you gotta be patient," O'Keefe said. "It's a real struggle to just focus on one shot at a time."
O'Keefe's emergence has helped the Beavers replace senior Matt Procyshen, who was set to be MSU's No. 1 golfer this fall before breaking three bones in his foot.
Revisiting Eggl's halfback pass
Blake Eggl's first career completion was a memorable one.
Near the end of a scoreless first quarter against the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) on Saturday, the MSU senior tailback took a pitch and ran toward the right sideline. Instead of plowing toward the line of scrimmage, Eggl pulled up and launched a spiral down the right sideline, hitting junior receiver Wayne Peters in stride. Peters ran unchallenged for a 63-yard touchdown.
"When I caught the pitch, I made sure to check the safety and corner," Eggl said. "I (saw) that they came up and Wayne took off and I put it on him."
Eggl said the team practiced the play twice the week before the game after noticing that USF's defensive backs flew upfield to stop apparent running plays.
A running back throughout his prep career, Eggl said it was his first completion since flag football in the fourth grade.
Upper Iowa LB leads defense
A week after New Mexico State transfer Taylor Perkins threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns to lead USF to a 42-20 win over MSU, the Beavers face another productive Division I-to-NSIC transfer.
Upper Iowa senior linebacker Tony Leggett, a former University of Alabama Birmingham player, is tied for the team lead with 32 tackles. Last season, the 6-foot-1, 235-pounder averaged 10.9 tackles per contest - the ninth best mark in the nation - and earned first-team all-NSIC South Division honors.
"He's got good feet, good hips," MSU coach Paul Rudolph said. "He's a good tackler, he's got some strength. He's a good player."
The Beavers and Upper Iowa kick off at 3 p.m. Saturday in Fayette, Iowa.