The window for an American Midwest Conference Championship run is closing for Stephens College.
After losing 8-1 to Park University on Wednesday, Stephens soccer is experiencing its worst stretch of the regular season. With this loss, it has now dropped five games in a row. And at a pivotal point in the season, it only has four games left to turn the ship around.
However, all is not lost for the Stars.
Stephens sits in a three-way tie for the No. 9 seed in the conference. With a few key wins in their remaining games, and a bit of luck, it’s entirely possible for the Stars to sneak into the playoffs with the No. 8 seed.
Whatever the outcome, coach Kurtis Boardsen said the players should be proud of what they have accomplished thus far, having one of the best years the program has seen in awhile.
But the Stars should consider taking a look back on this loss and addressing some of the issues that are preventing them from becoming a contender in the conference.
At the very start of the match, Stephens made a quick push upfield. Park quickly took back control of the ball, though, and from there, the Pirates moved into midfieldpatiently worked through their offense and dominated possession for the majority of the first half, which is nothing new for a Stephens match.
In many of the Stars’ losses, the opposing team has done exactly what Park did.
There’s no one adjustment Stephens can instantly make to correct this problem. It’s a multifaceted issue with a lot of aspects to consider.
But one thing the Stars can look to is their defensive positioning. Throughout the match, Stephens would crowd the box in an attempt to stop the team from scoring. In this choice of positioning, Stephens left itself in a bad spot to counterattack from its defense. Although no scheme is the perfect cure-all, with a different formation, the defenders could pass the ball out from the back, allowing the Stars to increase their time of possession.
Another area in which the Pirates outperformed the Stars was passing. Park consistently made clean passes between players.
Stephens’ passes were intercepted at a much higher rate, though many of those passes were just slightly off their mark.
If the Stars are more patient, they can increase their pass accuracy, which in turn will help Stephens make more effective plays in its offense by waiting for better opportunities.
There are other aspects at play here, but if the Stars can fix even one of these issues, they’ll be on their way to a playoff run in the AMC.
Stephens College next takes on Missouri Baptist University in an away game at 1 p.m. Saturday in St. Louis.