By CAYDEN SANDERS
Tiger Media Network
The Fort Hays State University women’s soccer team is heading back to the national tournament once again under Head Coach Tyson John. For the program, this will be their fourth trip making it to the tournament in their 13th season as a program.
“We have really put in the work this season. It’s one of our non-negotiables, when I came in I wanted a blue-collar team that defends from the front,” John said.
For the Tigers, this season has been about getting better, which started on defense. FHSU set a program single-season record for most shutouts in a season with 12, led by senior goalkeeper Isabel Robben, who broke her own program record of 11 shutouts from last season and has accumulated 23 total shutouts in her career – also an FHSU record.
“It’s a great record to have. Before the season, I had told myself that this was a record I was going to try and get and we accomplished it,” Robben said. “I wish that my defensive line can also have their names part of the record because I would not have earned the award without their help.”
FHSU also competed against stiff competition in the regular season, playing in six games against either ranked opponents or postseason-bound teams – three of which coming from the MIAA.
“This season has been really good, and we have been playing good all around. As many of us got MIAA awards,” forward Hannah Mares said. “We have played a tough schedule to lead up to the tournament, and look to get another win on the season.”
Mares earned honorable mention All-MIAA along with nine other teammates who were recognized, including one first-team, three second-team, two third-team, and three other honorable mention honorees.
Standing in front of the Tigers are a familiar foe in Emporia State.
During the regular season, the Tigers played the Hornets twice in a seven-day stretch tying ESU at home before defeating the Hornets 3-1 in Emporia. For the Tigers, seeing a familiar foe is what they want.
“We have to recognize that this is a good team, but also not the team we played in September,” Robben said.
As the Tigers set to embark on their trip to Emporia, Fort Hays still has last season on their mind. The Tigers lost to the Hornets 5-1 in Warrensburg, Missouri, in the opening round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
“We want to avenge the loss that we took from them last season in the opening round,” Mares said.
Emporia is led by 2023 MIAA Offensive Player of the Year, Mackenzie Dimarco. The graduate-student forward leads the MIAA with 19 goals on the season. In Dimarco’s career, she has scored 78 goals, the most by any MIAA women’s soccer player, and is the current NCAA DII active goals leader. She has scored eight times against FHSU in her time as a Hornet.
“We know what she wants to go; we know where she wants to go. We know that she wants to get the ball in certain areas,” John said. “We will be cycle defending making sure she stays wide and keep her away from our goal.”
Fort Hays State will square off against Emporia State at 1 p.m. on Friday in Emporia.