NCAA SOCCER: SMSU gets first taste of national recognition

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The Southwest Minnesota State women’s soccer team has tied for the No. 18 ranking in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/Continental Tire NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll.

This marks the first time in the history of the 18-year program that the Mustangs have been ranked in a national poll.

“This is a very cool accomplishment, but it’s still early in the season and we still have to keep doing what we’re doing to have a successful year,” Southwest Minnesota State head coach T.J. Buchholz said. “It’s very nice to be recognized on a national level.”

SMSU (6-0-0 overall, 3-0-0 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) made the leap to the No. 18 spot after not being ranked or receiving any votes in the previous week’s poll. The Mustangs share the No. 18 rating with Columbus, Ga., State University.

Grand Valley State remained No. 1 for the second consecutive week. Minnesota State is the only other NSIC team ranked in the poll, coming in at No. 6.

“We have stressed that we want to be a strong, cohesive unit with good team chemistry and that we want to be supportive of each other,” Buchholz said. “That is the paramount to the success in what we do.”

SMSU is experiencing its early-season success with a relatively young team, which Buchholz said has matured together on and off the field. Of the 25 players listed on the Mustangs’ roster, only three are seniors.

SMSU is primarily being led by a sophomore class of nine players, including top goal scorer Miranda Cadena (four goals, two assists) and top passer Kendahl Fisher (two goals, three assists). Justine Hauck (three goals) and Autumn Hayes (three goals, three assists), both juniors, are also heavily involved in the Mustangs’ attack.

Freshman goalie Brienna Dehkes has been superb inside the net, winning her first six matches with three shutouts. She has made 29 saves and allowed only three goals in 540 minutes.

Sophomores Megan Haninger, Danica Requejo and Kara Whiting and freshman Naomi Peterson are SMSU’s primary defensemen. Opponents need to navigate through that quartet before contending with Dehkes.

Mustangs’ midfielders include seniors Danica Caudillo, Vanessa Corona and Kayla Williams, junior Alex Pantze, sophomores Megan Kilroy and Lizzy Bruder and freshmen Sarah Keppler and Morgan Weyer-Coates.

Southwest Minnesota State concludes its five-game homestand with NSIC games versus St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth on Saturday and Sunday at The Schwan Regional Event Center.