The Washington State soccer team hits the stretch run of its non-conference schedule this weekend, hosting Northern Colorado tonight and then traveling to Saint Mary’s on Sunday before beginning Pac-12 play next week.
“They’re the last dress rehearsals, I guess you could say, before Pac-12 play begins, to make sure all the rotations are correct,” coach Todd Shulenberger said.
Tonight’s match against the Bears kicks off at 7 p.m. from Lower Soccer Field and can be streamed online at WSUCougars.com.
The Cougars have won four straight, while the Bears dropped back-to-back contests last weekend on a trip through Virginia at James Madison and Virginia Tech — their first two losses of the season. After flying back to the Rockies from the east coast on Sunday, they’re now in Pullman. It might be reasonable to expect the Bears — whom the Cougs beat 3-0 last season in Greeley — to be a bit road weary.
But even though results have been going the right way, it doesn’t mean WSU is humming along like a well-oiled machine at the moment. Despite piling up shots (WSU has out-shot opponents 136-52), the Cougars aren’t finding the back of the net as often as they would like.
Some of that very likely has come down to figuring out the best lineup combinations, given the team’s depth, particularly up front where there are a plethora of options, including stalwarts Margie Detrizio and Grayson Lynch, but also Alyssa Gray and newcomer Lily Boyden. And the midfield is finding itself increasingly crowded, as well, with Sydney Studer and Jenna Studer picking up the majority of the minutes, leaving Brianna McReynolds, MacKenzie Frimpong-Ellertson, Lindsey Turner, Marin Whieldon all fighting for minutes alongside them.
“I think we’re still figuring some things out, because we’re deeper — that’s probably been one of the struggles, in a good way,” Shulenberger said. “Deeper roster, more ability, and more people to play, just trying to find — again — the right minutes for combinations, etc., so i think that’s an internal — call it an issue? Or a good thing? — whichever way you look at it, and we’re, as a staff, still trying to figure that out.”
The other thing the team surely is trying to figure out is why it continues to leak goals: The Cougs have given up eight goals in six games and kept only one clean sheet, despite featuring an experienced back line and Nadia Cooper, the Pac-12’s goalkeeper of the year in 2021 as a true freshman.
Some of it is surely just randomness — Cal Poly, for example, hit an unstoppable shot that was well defended for its first goal on Sunday, then converted a penalty off a hand ball in the box — but not all. You can bet the Cougs will be focused on tightening that up this weekend.
Football injury update
While it appears the WSU offense emerged unscathed following the team’s 17-14 win over Wisconsin, the defense didn’t fare as well: Cornerback Derrick Langford, safety Jordan Lee, and linebacker Travion Brown all exited the contest early and are all considered gametime decisions for Saturday’s matchup with Colorado State.
The coaching staff is going to have a delicate balance here. Can the Cougs probably beat CSU without them? Yes. Are these guys more important the following week against Oregon? For sure. Does the coaching staff want to take the chance to hold them out, out of an abundance of caution?
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