Iowa State soccer came into this weekend's game against Texas Tech looking for a win to turn its shortened season around, and a winless Red Raider squad seemed like the perfect candidate.
As it turned out, Iowa State was outplayed, outshot and outscored in a 1-0 duel Friday. The Red Raiders came into the season as one of the Big 12 favorites, and they certainly showed it Friday, even if their record still doesn't indicate it.
The Cyclones have rarely been completely dominated this season, and even if this game wasn't a complete annihilation, it was the closest opponents have come to imposing their will against Iowa State.
Head Coach Matt Fannon's team knew this season was going to be difficult, and there are some big reasons why that has been the case through the first seven games.
Silkowitz is the lone star once again
If there has been a single bright spot, it's been sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Silkowitz. There's a reason she has been named Goalkeeper of the Week more than once in the Big 12 already this season, and if Iowa State was able to pull out the win, she surely would have won it a third time this week, and she still might.
Silkowitz was that good against Texas Tech.
This game could've easily been 3-0, or even 4-0, if not for some tremendous saves. Particularly in the second half, it felt as though Silkowitz was bailing out her team a couple of times.
The lone goal scored in this game came when Iowa State headed a ball right onto the foot of Gisselle Kozarski, and that was the difference.
This was another of many games where Silkowitz showed out in goal but received no offensive support.
Chance for Big 12 relevance come and gone
Three games ago, Iowa State was sitting at 2-3.
While that isn't the most attractive record in the world, it's the best Iowa State's record has looked in a long time. There was finally a chance for it to at least return to the middle of the pack at the end of the season.
That was just past the halfway point of the season, but now there's only two games left to play and Iowa State sits at 2-5.
While this is clearly better than its 0-9 showing last year, Iowa State has solidified its season standing at about seventh, maybe sixth if it can pull out these final two games.
Big 12 soccer this year seems to be divided into three tiers.
West Virginia, Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas all have winning records.
The next tier seems to be Baylor, Texas and Iowa State, each with at least two wins. The bottom three (Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Kansas State) all have one or zero wins.
It's fair to say Iowa State is firmly planted in the second tier, but there's little chance to move into the upper echelon as the season comes to an end.
Another losing conference season
As exciting as this team is with a young coaching staff and a different attitude seeming to come from the team, this loss for Iowa State secured a losing season, and in turn, a losing conference season. The Cyclones haven't had a winning conference season since 2005, when they went 6-3-1.
While a winning season is something every team surely shoots for, the soccer faithful in Ames have grown accustomed to losing, particularly losing year after year to most of the Big 12.
This season seemed to be more about showing promise and progress, and that will be something the team can reflect on at the end of the season.