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Overtime victory gives Belles win

Ryan Duffy | Wednesday, September 8, 2004

The Saint Mary’s soccer team took its first step towards an MIAA title Tuesday with a 3-2 overtime win against the University of St. Francis (Ind.). Team captain Jen Concannon scored two unassisted goals to keep the Belles in the game, and midfielder Katie Noble broke the tie in overtime, scoring the game-winner off an assist from Carrie Orr.

“Being our first game, we really played well together as a unit,” sophomore McKenna Keenan said. “It was great to start off the season with a win. I think we had a really good chemistry going among our defensive line.”

The defense was the focus of Tuesday’s game, with the Belles implementing a new system for the first time under coach Caryn MacKenzie. Rather than using the standard plan of three defenders in the backfield, Saint Mary’s now uses a “flat-back four” system which features four defenders in a straight line. The new strategy is already proving to be effective.

“It was the first chance to test out the new defense, and it worked really well,” Orr said. “Everyone did a good job of getting back when they needed to. The strong defense helped provide opportunities for our offense, and Jen Concannon and Ashley Hinton, the two center midfielders, both played very well.”

With a new coach and a new game plan, it was important to the team to start the season smoothly.

“It will be really great for our confidence to go into our next game after a game like this, where we scored goals and were victorious in overtime,” Shannon Culbertson said. “We played really strongly with the flat-back four defense.”

Culbertson also is satisfied with the influence MacKenzie has had.

“She’s really made an impact already in the preseason. She has brought a lot more focus and support to the team this year,” MacKenzie said. “We’re very happy to have her as our coach.”

Despite the loss, St. Francis played the Belles well, demonstrating the strong technical game that has made them one of the better teams in the NAIA. Although the game was a non-conference competition, the players still have their sights set on an MIAA championship.

“We’re all really enthusiastic about this year’s team, and about our chances this season,” Orr said. “Our main goal this year is to win the MIAA and go to the playoffs.”