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Kansas State women’s soccer coach Mike Dibbini at media day in 2016. 

The Kansas State soccer team finally will play in front of its fan base Thursday night. The past three seasons, the Wildcats have built the program from the dirt — much like the new Buser Family Park, which will debut Thursday when the Wildcats (0-1-1) host Arkansas State. There is excitement in the program, but above all else there has been focus. While Wildcats head coach Mike Dibbini said he feels good about this team, strides must be made.

“I thought (Creighton and Omaha) were great games for us as far as learning in key moments in the match to allow us to get better in certain areas during the game. We did some good things and we did some things that we definitely need to work on,” Dibbini said Wednesday morning. “I’m still feeling good about this team as far as balancing what we need to do on both sides of the pitch.”

Two goals in the opening 20 minutes against a talented Creighton team Friday proved the Wildcats could be an explosive team. One of the Wildcats’ seniors, Katie Cramer, put two in the back of the net, but the Wildcats couldn’t command the tempo the rest of the contest. This was a problem because Dibbini considers this the team’s identity: keeping possession of the ball.

“I think we did better in the second game (limiting scoring opportunities),” Dibbini said. “I felt like we were a little more organized. But Creighton is a really potent offensive team with a couple players that willed them and are very dangerous. We didn’t have it as much in the Omaha game with that kind of threat, but we did a good job getting the shutout, which was the goal.”

Those two games showed K-State what to keep improving upon.

The team wants to keep possession until the ball can be put in the back of the net. That happened against Creighton early. When Creighton dominated the second half, Kansas State went into Sunday’s game against Omaha with the mindset of getting a shutout. That happened too, but it ended in a draw.

“Omaha was one of those games, you have those in soccer, where you feel like you just dominate the whole game and then you just can’t get it in the goal,” junior midfielder Brookelynn Entz said.

Entz helped the Wildcats put together several scoring opportunities late against Omaha that didn’t find the net. But the defense was much stronger.

“Starting out, our defensive line was struggling,” junior defender Avery Green said. “We let in a few goals (because of) stupid mistakes, and I didn’t feel like we were connected as a back line. But we’ve really honed in on that and worked on it.”

Green, Entz and Dibbini all agreed the Wildcats let up against the Bluejays, but still showed signs of progress. Green said she feels the defensive line greatly improved in the Omaha game.

That has helped the Wildcats work towards playing with that possessive mentality.

“It’s really important as a back line that we aren’t just sending the ball forward every time we get it, so Coach works with us a lot on keeping that ball, getting that pass into the midfield or finding it out wide so our outside backs can work it up the field,” Green said. “So I think we really focus on, as much as we can, making that short pass and only sending it long when we really have to.”

“I think Creighton, obviously we let in a couple goals and let off the gas. I think our focus for that second game was to get that shutout. Defensively, our mindset was to get the shutout and we did that, so I think we really improved as a defensive line just in one game.”

Now that the Wildcats have experience shutting out a team and scoring in high volume, they are going to take a crack at putting it all together in front of a home crowd at the opening of Buser Family Park.

“Having that energy from the crowd, it really gets you hyped and you have to be composed on the ball because we are going to get so excited and just go, go, go,” Entz said. “We need to remember to play our game, be calm and keep possession of the ball so we can put it in the net.”

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