The Minot State University and University of Mary women's soccer teams played to a scoreless tie in both teams' regular-season opener Thursday at Herb Parker Stadium.
While the vuvuzela-toting MSU cheering section likely wanted to see something other than a 0-0 draw, both coaches came away encouraged after earning one point in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference standings.
"I saw three or four quality (scoring) chances on both sides," Mary coach Sarah McNulty said. "I think when you're playing against an opponent where you guys are evenly matched, that's probably all you're gonna get. We didn't finish ours, they didn't finish theirs. I thought the defense on both sides was amazing and goalkeepers on both sides weren't going to let anything in."
Minot State University sophomore Breanne Hatheld settles the ball in front of University of Mary junior Andrea Muller on Thursday at Herb Parker Stadium.
The teams split last year, with Mary winning the season opener 1-0 and MSU topping the Marauders 2-1 in the first round of the NSIC tournament.
Both squads tested the opposing goalkeeper, but Mary had the closer misses. Marauder senior Alex Bachmann-Williams, a Minot High School product, had two shots in the first half tipped over the crossbar by MSU's 6-foot goalkeeper Gemma Biasetto. The sophomore had seven saves for a shutout in her first career start.
"I was definitely nervous (about the close misses), but they didn't go in," Biasetto said. "I think that comes from the pressure from our defense because we have a fantastic defense."
The Beavers' nearly broke the tie with 7 minutes, 5 seconds left in regulation, when freshman Erika Linch guided a header wide of the left post. MSU junior forward Zoe Fisher also made a couple of threatening runs past Marauder defenders, but failed to connect with a teammate once she gained a 2-on-1 advantage.
"I think we have to get better in the middle-to-attacking third," MSU coach Jason Spain said. "We had runs wide open and we missed them. Then Zoe didn't see a couple. I'm confident if we see those runs, it's 2-0."
Spain said his offense didn't click, but noted that the team struggled to score in the early stages of last season. He said everything the team has focused on so far - defensive shifts, knocking down balls in the air, defending set pieces - was a strength in the season opener.
Bachmann-Williams nearly gave the Marauders the win with 30 seconds left in the first 10-minute overtime period. The all-conference forward lobbed a header over Biasetto but it knicked off the outside of the right post.
"In any moment like this, I definitely trust Alex quite a bit," McNulty said. "She was hunting and trying to find things and she created a lot of opportunities. I definitely thought she was going to find one eventually, but a point is a point and a draw still keeps us in the game, so I think it's a great result."
MSU travels to Southwest Baptist (Mo.) on Thursday.
Daniel Allar reports on Minot State University athletics and assists with high school coverage. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.