Midland made the NAIA women’s soccer national quarterfinals for the first time last fall. But what the Warriors didn’t receive last year was a conference trophy — they were second to Hastings in the regular season and lost to Concordia in the GPAC tournament semifinals.

This week, the Warriors can change that.

Midland leads the GPAC standings by one game over Hastings and Jamestown with two games left. The Warriors finish the regular season by going on the road to face two teams with winning records, College of St. Mary on Wednesday and Dordt on Saturday.

“That’s pushing us, I think. It’s driving us to do better,” said junior goalie Rachel Thigpen of the possibility of winning a conference title.

Thigpen, a first-team All-American last season, has allowed six goals all season. She’s fifth in the NAIA this season in goals against average, allowing 0.41 per game.

Defense, once again, has been a strength for the 17th-ranked Warriors.

“They’ve been a staple for us all year,” Midland coach Greg Jarosik said. “They’ve been as consistent on the back line as anyone in the country.”

Midland graduated just one senior last season. Jarosik starts seven seniors this season, and that back line includes multiyear senior starters Alaina Melanson, Marley Farrell and Harlee Zancanelli. Since being upset by Briar Cliff on Sept. 21, Midland has won nine straight matches, allowing one goal during that span.

One of those eight shutouts came last Wednesday against No. 12 Hastings.

“The cards just kind of fell our way,” Jarosik said of Midland’s 2-0 win. “Hastings is a good team, but we got the early goal and momentum changed a little bit. Our back line did a really good job of limiting their chances.”

The early goal that day came from Nayeli Rodriguez off an assist from PT Perez. That senior duo have been elite scorers the past four years as both have more than 50 goals in their Midland careers.

“They’re one and two in every (career) statistical category Midland has to offer,” Jarosik said. “Consistently in the biggest moments in the biggest games they find a way to score.”

Midland seems to be hitting its stride again as the postseason nears. It started the season with a tie and a loss, but is 12-1 ever since.

“We started out No. 9, so of course we wanted to do well,” said Thigpen, referring to Midland’s preseason ranking. “We just had to put that ranking aside and play like we can play.”

In other Midlands notes

  • The same day the Midland women defeated Hastings, Midland’s men did the same to tighten the GPAC standings. Heading into the final week of the season, Hastings, Morningside and Briar Cliff are tied for first at 8-1, while Midland is 8-1-1. Morningside played Hastings on Tuesday and will face Briar Cliff on Saturday.
  • UNK (23-0) remains No. 2 in the NCAA Division II volleyball poll. Wayne State dropped from eighth to 12th after it was upset by Bemidji State.
  • The Concordia women’s basketball team, ranked No. 1 in NAIA Division II, defeated two top-12 opponents over the weekend to start its season. On Saturday the Bulldogs edged Southeastern (Fla.) 63-62 in overtime in a rematch of last year’s national final.
  • Philly Lammers hit a jumper with 29 seconds left for the deciding basket as she finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
  • The Northeast Community College women’s soccer team won a program-record 13 games this season. Northeast’s season ended Saturday with a 2-1 overtime loss to Hawkeye Community College in the Region XI playoffs.

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Gene covers a variety of sports beats for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @geneOWH. Phone: 402-444-1038.

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