Noonan having a ball with Bulldogs

It’s one sunny day after another right now for Sarah Noonan.
The 19-year-old Fort Frances native and her University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs women’s soccer team are kicking up a storm in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
“We’ve set our standards high,” said Noonan, an exercise science major in her freshman year at UMD. “We expect to win the conference.
“Our team is so great at adjusting to our opponent,” she added. “If we’re playing a strong offensive team, we can change our style to a more defensive game.
“But if we want to send more people on the attack against another team, we can do that, too.”
The squad sits in top spot in the NSIC with a 7-0 record in conference play this season (12-3 overall), including 2-0 conference wins against Minnesota-Morris on Saturday and Northern State (N.D.) on Sunday.
Noonan, who has started the last three games after a one-goal, four-assist performance coming off the bench Oct. 10 against Bemidji State, opened the scoring in the 12th minute against Northern State.
In 12 games this season, the striker has collected three goals and six assists, and is tied for fourth in team scoring. At the other end of the field, the Bulldogs have yet to allow a goal in conference play.
“It’s quite a change,” Noonan said about the challenges of U.S. college soccer. “It’s a lot more competitive, and the game’s a lot faster. And our home field is made of turf, not grass, so the ball moves even faster.”
The Bulldogs’ team spirit has helped smooth the transition for Noonan, who also is the reigning Miss Fun in the Sun here in Fort Frances.
“I’ve learned more in the first year here than in all my years of soccer combined,” she remarked. “My teammates have so much experience. It’s easy to do well when you have 25 other girls that are your best friends.”
The decision to attend UMD came easy to Noonan, although funding her university experience has not.
“I went down for a one-day tryout in March,” she recalled. “I called the UMD coach [Greg Cane] after and he said if I could come to school here, I was on the team.
“But I’m not on scholarship,” she stressed. “My parents are helping with my room and board, but I’m responsible for the rest.”
At just 5’3”, Noonan is glad that height isn’t as much a factor in soccer as she found it to be while playing basketball at Rainy River Community College in International Falls last year.
Her biggest concern at this point is that the Bulldogs may get cut off at the knees when it comes to taking a run at the national championship.
“You’re seeded in your area depending how you do in regional play,” Noonan explained. “You may finish first in your conference but if you’re not ranked in the top three in the region, you can’t go to the regional championship.
“Our conference isn’t as strong as some others, so we tried to play more out-of-conference games earlier in the season,” she noted. “You take a chance doing that, because you’re playing better teams, but if you win, it can really improve your seeding.”
The Bulldogs return to action this Saturday and Sunday with road games against Winona State and Concordia-St. Paul, respectively.
UMD wraps up regular-season play Nov. 3, then plays its NSIC quarter-final game Nov. 5. The semi-finals and final take place Nov. 9-10 in Minneapolis.
The regional semi-finals are Nov. 13, with the final set for Nov. 16, with the winner advancing to the national championship.

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