With the Saint Mary's University (SMU) women's soccer team closing in on its first-ever Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament berth — not to mention its first conference regular-season title since 1991 — every one of the Cardinals' last four regular-season games comes with a bit of added importance.
An off day is not an option.
Last Saturday afternoon against Bethel University (BU), the Cardinals were far from "off," as Saint Mary's erupted for three goals, two in the first half and another in the second, in rolling to a 3-1 conference win over the Royals — inching the Cardinals closer to a ticket to the post-season.
With the win, the Cardinals remained in a tie with St. Catherine University for the top spot in the conference at 6-1-1 — and a win at Hamline University on Saturday will guarantee Saint Mary's a spot in the six-team conference tournament.
Haddy Falkman got the Cardinals on the board early, scoring her eighth goal of the season — on SMU's first penalty kick attempt of the year — just 14 minutes into the opening half.
Saint Mary's would push that lead to 2-0 when Elisia Jensen took a pass from Jordyn Matthews and laced a left-footed laser that beat BU goalkeeper Izzy Smith with 15 minutes remaining in the half.
Bethel would not go away, however, cutting the Cardinal lead in half in the waning seconds on a goal by Tessah Anderson with 54 seconds until the halftime break.
Saint Mary's clung to that one-goal advantage through the first 29 minutes of the second half, before Brooklyn McKinney found the back of the net for her fifth goal of the season — and a much more comfortable 3-1 Cardinal lead.
Madison Mora picked up her second straight win in goal, stopping one of BU's two shots on goal, while Smith finished with six saves — including five in the second half.
The Cardinals (6-1-1 MIAC, 12-2-1 overall) travel to Hamline's Patterson Field in St. Paul, Minn., for a 3:30 p.m. conference matchup against the Pipers.