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DWU climbing GPAC ladder in women's soccer

With the bulk of the Great Plains Athletic Conference schedule still to go, the Dakota Wesleyan University women’s soccer team expects to compete for a home playoff game.

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Seventh-year coach Dale Roden knows his team has played even with the competition so far, but if the Tigers (4-5-1, 1-1 GPAC) want to make a run in the GPAC, they cannot be content being a .500 team.

“With conference play, we have made some adjustments and really improved our play a lot,” Roden said. “We’re coming into a crucial time of the season.”

After losing two straight, DWU got back on course last week with a 3-2 overtime win over Presentation College and its first conference victory over Dordt.

The Tigers are now 1-1 in GPAC play heading into a clash with perennial conference powerhouse Hastings College. The Broncos have won the last three GPAC regular-season titles.

The Tiger offense, led by Thara Ali Said, has perked up as of late, netting three goals in each of its last two games.

“She is fun to watch up front and very creative,” Roden said of his forward from Muscat, Oman.

Ali Said has a GPAC-leading eight goals to go along with three assists this season.

Center midfielder Linsey Peterson, a Pierre native, has also emerged as a scoring threat for DWU, finding the back of the net four times.

“She has really stepped up in the past two or three games by playing with confidence,” Roden said. “She makes us better and can take over a game.”

The offense has started to find its identity after not after experimenting with different formations early in the year. The DWU coaching staff started the season focusing on the shape of the defense. With time to get comfortable, the Tiger attack has found its way heading into conference play.

Roden is also happy with the versatility and physical play of Ashley Burkman, who has been placed in several different positions for the Tigers.

Goalkeeper Erica Carpenter has become a fixture between the pipes for DWU. The senior from Kansas City, Kan., has a .771 save percentage, while making 74 saves in 10 games.

“She has really come up big for us when we call on her,” Roden said.

After a couple of lean seasons at DWU, the Tigers are working to get back to the success they had in 2009 when they won their lone GPAC crown, finishing 17-1-4.