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The Antelope

The Antelope

Breton’s opening weekend ends with confidence-building tie against Southwest Minnesota State

Defender Dolcie Hanlon tries to force the ball outside

By Kevin Burd

UNK played its first two matches of the Rob Breton era this weekend, losing 3-0 to Winona State on Friday and tying Southwest Minnesota State 0-0 on Sunday. While no goals were scored by the Lopers, they were able to gain some offensive momentum against SMSU.

Even with only 10 players on the field after senior defender Lily Engeman picked up a red card in the 23rd minute, the Lopers managed to keep the Mustangs at bay and move their record to 0-1-1.

“I saw a change in mentality,” said UNK coach Rob Breton. “We went away from being the victims to being on the front foot. Especially even going down a player, you saw the girls change the way they played and it’s almost like we didn’t go down a player. We were actually on the front foot for a lot of portions of the game.”

After struggling on offense in the first half with only two shots and no corners, the Lopers ratcheted up their offensive attack. In the final 45 minutes, UNK had five shots and two corner kicks. 

Southwest Minnesota finished the match with 11 shots and nine corners. UNK goalie Mackenzie Smith was crucial in the 0-0 outcome, with nine saves on the day.

“I think they’re really starting to believe in themselves more and that’s the big thing,” Breton said. “I want to empower these players to have the belief in themselves that they know what to do. They don’t need to look to the sideline for an answer or support because they know how to play the game. They’re quality college athletes and they’re finally starting to show that we can adapt, grow and we don’t have to hold back and be afraid.”

With four shots against Winona State and seven versus Southwest Minnesota, the group has established an offensive presence. They’re now looking to convert those opportunities into goals.

“It’s about quality opportunities, not just when we get down there taking shots to take shots,” Breton said. “A couple of times you saw them get to the end line and they just hit a ball to no one in the box. Instead, they could keep the ball, wait for the team to support and get up in the attack and then take quality moments. We’re going to talk more about efficiency and quality rather than quantity.”

Because of new NCAA rules, overtime is no longer played during the regular season, so the scoreless outcome remained after 90 minutes of play. This has made for an interesting start to Southwest Minnesota’s season, starting 0-0-2 after finishing with ties against both East Central and UNK.

The Lopers will be on the road for their next matches against Colorado Mesa and Western Colorado on Friday and Sunday.

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