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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Women’s soccer set to host Midwest Conference Tournament

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Robert Nguyen 21′

Senior forwards Emma Art and Olivia Grierson embrace following a 2-0 win on Knox’s senior day. (Robert Nguyen / TKS)

Three teams will travel to Galesburg, Illinois this week to compete in the Midwest Conference Tournament

Knox’s women’s soccer team won the midwest conference regular season for the fifth consecutive season when it defeated Lake Forest 2-0 on Oct. 23. 

Knox defeated Illinois College 1-0 to cement its perfect regular season. To get to the picture of the women celebrating on Jorge Prats Field, victorious, after clinching the number one no. 1 overall seed, you have to know the adversity they encountered along the way. 

Their season started off against some of the top teams in the country in Hope College and the University of Chicago. The Prairie Fire started off the season 0-3. “It’s not fun to lose,” senior defender/forward Emma Art said. “It’s tough emotionally and mentally, but getting through those will get you through anything during the season.”

Soccer arrives on campus earlier than the rest of the student body. The first two and a half months before school starts are delegated to training.  

“You eat, sleep, and breathe soccer constantly,” Art said. 

In non-conference games, Knox finished with a record of 2-6-1. The tough competition helped prepare the women’s team for the conference play. Those games were also competitive but served as a reality check for the Prairie Fire. 

“The biggest thing is we’re not invincible,” senior midfielder/forward Olivia Grierson said. “In the past, we have seen a lot of success in preseason, but this year taught us that we can get beat. There’s a lot of work to be done. All of those games prepared for us to take on the conference.” 

Forward Lydia Mitchell paced the Knox offense this season at the Midwest Conference. She scored 14 goals, six more than the next leader. 

“It was important to prove to ourselves that we can compete with teams that are nationally ranked. It will give us so much confidence going into conference,” Mitchell told me back in October. “We played some of our best soccer against some insanely good teams.” 

Ultimately, the rough preseason shaped the rest of the season for Knox. When faced with adversity, the team didn’t fold—it regrouped. 

“It’s the heart. The preseason was really tough for us with a lot of losses,” Art said. “[There were] a lot of emotions that were negative—not wanting to be here as much—and you could feel that on the team. Going from that to 8-0 takes so much emotional capacity from the team.”

In a preseason poll conducted by the league’s head coaches, Knox was voted third in the conference behind Lake Forest and Cornell College. On a team with seven seniors who were a part of two Midwest Conference regular-season championships prior, they weren’t happy with the slight. 

“When we were voted to finish third, it was a reflection of the spring when we lost to Lake Forest,” Grierson said. “That really hit our senior class really hard. That was not how we wanted to enter our next season. I think it really speaks volumes to us as a program of how we’re going to respond to people who say we don’t deserve to be first.”

Heading into the tournament, the women’s soccer team have another loss to avenge. In 2019, the team fell to Monmouth College in penalty kicks in the Midwest Conference tournament. On a team full of strong workers, it’s just more added fuel to the fire. 

“Constantly,” Art said when asked if she thinks about the Monmouth game. “Every single day of practice when we take PKs, we’re winning. That’s the mentality. That’s what we gotta do, I can’t go through that again.”

The strength of this team is their heart, their relentlessness. They want to win not only of themselves, but for each other. Each woman is playing for the team when they step on the field. It takes a buy-in from every single woman on the roster to finish off an undefeated regular season. 

“The seniors that left when we were freshmen said “The program is in your hands now,” Grierson said. “We built this, and you have to keep it going. That means going into training everyday knowing that you’re working for a bigger goal.” 

With another Midwest Conference championship, the seniors—along with the entirety of the roster—have kept the soccer program’s winning pedigree alive and well. 

With the women’s team hosting, these will be their last couple of games on their home field. Before each game, there’s a tradition that the women engage in before they leave the locker room. 

“When we went to play Dubuque, sophomore Kasey Snyder grabbed a boulder from their campus. We won that night and it was a game we were supposed to lose,” Art said. “We have this lucky boulder now in our locker room that every single person touches before the game. Little things like that are stupid but are so important, and without [Snyder] we wouldn’t have the lucky boulder.”

The boulder is an object that keeps the mood calm. For a team that sports a record of 23-2-1in the past four years, a ton of pressure comes with that success. When you’re at the top, you receive every team’s best shot because they understand how momentous a win against Knox College is. 

“The boulder is what keeps it light,” Mitchell said. “It’s a lot of people expecting us to win and that mindset can be difficult to carry on the field. These teams going against us in the tournament have nothing to lose. If they win, they’ve beaten the giant.” 

In what was a trying season at times, the women persevered off of the strength of the strong bond they hold as a team. 

“Our positivity is our biggest strength,” Art said. “You see teams falter when they play against us because they’re negative. If a goalie doesn’t save a goal then they just bash on the goalie. We’ve changed our attitudes and really started to have no smack talking to your own teammates because we’re all playing against one team.”

Every second on the field matters. It’s a single-elimination tournament, so every game matters, but the pressure is nothing new for these women.

“We have to continue paving the way forward for those who are coming in,” Grierson said. Coming back and being able to do this every single year that I’ve been here is huge. I feel a weight but privileged to be able to do this.”

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