SE: Nothing to Lose — K-State Soccer Opens Inaugural Season Friday

Mike Dibbini will repeat plenty of words during the K-State women’s soccer team’s first season — compete, family, respect and tradition are expected to be near the top of the list. 

What the Wildcats’ head coach won’t be heard saying is the word “lose.” In his eyes, the program’s inaugural season won’t be judged by wins or losses. 

“We’re going to learn, because I don’t like to use the word lose. We’re always going to have our ‘we have nothing to lose’ (mindset),” Dibbini said at his team’s media day. “We’re going to learn a lot from the games this year, but it’s a great opportunity to figure ourselves out, figure out our identity, build some traditions and build the methodology of how we’re going to play.”

The Wildcats took home plenty of lessons from last week’s 2-0 exhibition loss at Arkansas — an SEC program entering its 30th season. 

“It was the best thing that could’ve happened to this program in its existence because of the fact that we now know what it takes to compete at the Power 5 level,” Dibbini said of facing the Razorbacks. “We saw some key players step up to the challenge after the nerves had settled and the jitters had settled, and we were able to build off of that and build some confidence in certain areas.”

The Wildcats bounced back in their final exhibition before Friday’s season opener at Saint Louis, pounding out a 5-0 victory over Division II Washburn at the K-State Soccer Complex on Tuesday. 

“I think the more comfortable they’re getting, the more confident they’re playing,” Dibbini said after Tuesday’s exhibition. “I felt like the urgency and intensity were a lot higher this game. I think we learned a lot from our previous scrimmage against Arkansas that we brought to this game.”

With 36 players on the roster, K-State also brought a lot of different jersey numbers into its exhibition against Washburn. Considering the first and fifth goals occurred more than 50 minutes apart and the shutout was maintained throughout, Dibbini’s expectation to see separation in battles for playing time didn’t exactly come to fruition. 

"They're making my job a little bit more difficult because we do have a larger roster and they are all stepping up at the right time, competing and trying to earn a roster spot and playing time,” he said. “Every time I think that we have separated ourselves and figured out the rosters, somebody — somehow, someway — figures out a way to get in and challenge for another spot.”

From the players’ perspective, this displays a particular strength of the team. 

“We know that we are really a deep team,” said sophomore Tatum Wagner, one of five different Wildcats to score a goal against the Ichabods. “Everyone can play.” 

“Our team has a lot of depth,” added junior midfielder Jade Anderson, who scored a goal and tallied an assist against Washburn. “Anyone, whether you're coming off the bench or starting, we are ready to go out and compete.”

Another strong point, multiple players agreed, is the team’s chemistry, which was fast-tracked throughout the summer with a united focus in mind. 

“We all are in the same position, so it helps us click more, and we all want the same thing,” said captain and redshirt sophomore defender Hali Sutter. “I think we’re all focused and ready to go.”

“We all are pretty close and we all want what’s best for each other,” added redshirt sophomore Kim Braddock, also a captain. “I think just being able to work for each other will help us get through a new season.”

For the first eight contests of this 16-match season, the Wildcats will compete on the road. K-State will travel to Missouri (Saint Louis), Illinois (SIUE), Michigan (Oakland, Central Michigan), Nebraska (Creighton, Omaha) and Arkansas (Central Arkansas, Little Rock) in less than a month’s time. 

K-State’s first of four home matches in 2016 will be against Northern Iowa on September 16. The Wildcats will also host Oral Roberts (Sept. 23), South Dakota (Sept. 25) and UMKC (Sept. 30), before closing their season at Drake, Texas, Missouri State and Illinois State. 

The Wildcats’ goal is to win, but their plan is to build toward the bigger picture, which includes starting Big 12 play in 2017. 

“It’s definitely a lot of fun being able to say that we’re making history and starting it all from scratch. We’re just trying to build a strong, steady foundation,” said Abbey Fiser, the lone senior on the team. “I think that our expectations are kind of what Coach (Dibbini) has said, either we’re going to win or we’re going to learn. We don’t really use the word loss because we are a new program. 

“We really have nothing to lose going into this season.”