A change in approach paid big dividends Sunday for the scoring-starved Minot State University women's soccer team.
Head coach Jason Spain told his team in a pregame meeting to be more aggressive and started all offensive-minded players against St. Cloud State. The Beavers responded with their highest goal output of the season in a 3-1 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference win at Herb Parker Stadium, snapping the Huskies' three-match winning streak.
MSU (3-6-2 overall, 3-5-1 NSIC) entered the game having scored just four times in its last five contests. Spain said the Beavers' lack of goals made players too afraid to lose the ball when they did get attacking opportunities, hampering their aggressiveness.
Minot State University freshman forward Chloe Melton dribbles in front of St. Cloud State defender Skye Finley on Saturday at Herb Parker Stadium.
"I said, 'Look, I don't care if you score today. I don't care if you miss nine breakaways. Just be dangerous at all times,' " Spain said. "I thought everyone that played up front - from attacking (midfielders) on - had that in their minds."
The Beavers, normally a defensive-oriented group, outshot SCSU 20-14 - including a 12-6 edge in shots on goal.
MSU scored the first goal in the 34th minute. Junior midfielder Taylor Franco headed in a free kick from classmate Zoe Fisher from 25 yards out.
Fisher added another tally less than six minutes later on a nifty one-on-one move. Fisher sprinted into the left side of the box before coming to an abrupt stop while toeing the ball back toward the middle of the box and her preferred right foot.
The English striker caught the defender and SCSU goalkeeper Brittany Plombon off balance and buried the shot into the middle of the net.
"Something clicked I think," said Fisher, who scored her first goal of the season Saturday against Minnesota Duluth. "Jason spoke to us before in the team room and really riled us up. This is an important game. We have to win it to even consider making the tournament."
With the victory, the Beavers moved into a three-way tie for eighth place in the NSIC with six matches remaining in the regular season. The top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament.
SCSU (6-5-1, 3-5-1) made it 2-1 in the seventh minute of the second half on a brilliant strike by Michelle Cornell. The midfielder made a quick turn from 15 yards out and blasted the ball into the top left corner.
But MSU forward Jayden Montejano put the game out of reach with 15:05 left. The freshman took a deft short pass from sophomore Kayla Schlittenhart and one-timed a left-footed shot into the bottom left corner.
Montejano said she momentarily blacked out while scoring her first career goal.
"I remember kicking and then I remember everyone screaming," she said. "It was that much of an adrenaline rush."
MSU sophomore Jimi Guibor recorded five saves in her first start, including a diving one-handed punch on a close-range shot in the opening half.
Spain was pleased with the overall effort of his team, which hosts Augustana (8-4, 6-3) and Wayne State (1-10-1, 1-7-1) this weekend.
"This is the first time we've played well from start to finish," Spain said. "We've been getting longer, longer and longer pockets of good play."
Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.