Jason Spain is convinced that No. 6 Minnesota State University-Mankato is underrated.
After the Mavericks handled his Minot State University squad Sunday, Spain said Mankato is the best Division II team in the country.
The Mavericks (8-1-1 overall, 7-0 Northern Sun) thoroughly controlled possession in a 2-0 victory over the Beavers at Herb Parker Stadium.
Minot State University senior Tara McPartland shields Minnesota State University-Mankato’s Breanna Steele from the ball during the first half of Mankato’s 2-0 win Sunday at Herb Parker Stadium.
"They were very composed," Spain said. "They shook of our physicality very easily and just kept running at us."
Mankato scored on a penalty kick about seven minutes into the game. Midfielder Brianne West was fouled by an MSU defender in the box, and Mankato junior Caitlin Grabowski slid the ensuing kick past MSU senior goalkeeper Marie Torres.
The Beavers (6-3-1, 4-3) created a couple scoring chances midway through the first half. MSU sophomore forward Emilie Rebelo had two decent looks at the net, but one shot ended up in the arms of Mankato goalie Molly McGough and the other sailed over the crossbar.
After about the 15-minute mark, it was all Mankato. Spain credited West and Grabowski, two of Mankato's starting midfielders, with keeping the Beavers pinned on their defensive half of the field.
The Mavericks found space to work and connected on rapid-fire passes, while the Beavers rarely strung together more than a couple touches on Mankato's side of the field.
"We were really able to manage the tempo, and then I thought we were able to press ourselves and keep the game on the front foot," Mankato coach Peter McGahey said. "I think it's a credit to our women. Their composure on the ball today, I thought, was very good."
The Mavericks added the second goal of the game less than five minutes into the second half. Sophomore Emily Moris barely got her head on a long free kick from Lauren Somers and the ball slid past Torres, who was leaning the opposite direction.
"When a touch gets on a quality service like that, it's gonna find its way often into the back of the net," McGahey said.
MSU junior defender Taylor Carlstrom said the Beavers were simply outplayed by the top team in the conference.
"They were really organized and we weren't this game," she said. "If we don't play our full potential, we're just gonna get shut out against teams like that. ... I thought the second half was a lot better than the first half, especially going against the wind, but their back line was a lot more organized than us. Our offense couldn't do anything."
Spain was encouraged that the Beavers only gave up goals on set plays, but he admitted his team was outclassed at several positions.
"We would've been good enough to beat a lot of teams today, but if we're gonna play the best teams we gotta play our best," he said. "I can't look at anyone and say, 'She had a bad game.' They were just better than us at a lot of spots."
The Beavers play at St. Cloud State (Minn.) at 1 p.m. Saturday.