When Black Hills State women's soccer coach Mike Greco was hired in August, he knew he had a tall task in front of him.
The Yellow Jackets were going into their second year of existence, with only two seniors and a team that consisted of mostly freshman and sophomores.
So far this season, the results have gone as expected for BHSU. The Yellow Jackets are 0-11 after falling to Adams State Sunday 5-0. They are 0-6 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and have been outscored by opponents this season 48-3.
"Sometimes I feel like I’m running around with my hair on fire, but I’m really proud. The ladies really buy in," Greco said. "They want to make BH proud, they want to make Spearfish proud and they want to make South Dakota proud, so all the elements are there but when you’re playing against programs that are established and they have senior leadership, you just have to grunt it out."
Greco admitted that being hired so late in the season has been a challenge, but he's seen improvement throughout the season, and especially with the past weekend's games in Spearfish, including dropping a 4-1 decision Friday to Fort Lewis College.
"The scoreline was not true to the spirit of the game, and that happens," he said. "I was very pleased with the fight, a lot of good, positive things have happened this weekend that we’ve just started to implement and it’s giving us a lot more positives. I think even statistically we’re creating more opportunities to score, and there’s a lot more fight in the ladies."
Sunday, the Yellow Jackets were very much alive until the final 15 minutes. They conceded a goal in the second minute when Natalie Wheelock scored on a free kick from about 30 yards out, but that was all the scoring in the first half.
The Yellow Jackets had two solid shots on goal in the final 10 minutes of the half, but Adams State goalie Corri Zaiger gobbled up the shots. Going into the half, however, BHSU only had one fewer shots than ASU, trailing 5-4 in a category that has been an issue this season for the team.
In the second half ASU (2-6-2 overall, 1-5-1 RMAC) got things going offensively as Lourdes Padilla scored on a rebound in the 54th minute.
In the 75th minute, Kendall Weld scored when BHSU goalie Raven Johnson was unable to clear the ball out of her own end, and Weld was able to fire a shot by her on one touch.
After that the floodgates opened, Lacey Daniel scored on a penalty kick in the 81st minute after previously firing two shots off the crossbar and Weld scored again off an assist from Brenna Oakey in the 85th minute.
"I think at this level in the RMAC and Division II, when you make mistakes they’re capitalized on," Greco said. "They had one open goal that they missed otherwise the score would have been worse than that. That’s just it, we kind of get in these positions where we make a couple of key mistakes and it puts them in positions where they have a couple of easy chances."
Greco admitted that it's hard to sell to the players of a program in its second year that they are going to win every game, but he said the staff has circled a few on the calendar where they sell the idea of getting a victory harder. With no RMAC wins coming into the contest, he said Adams State was on that list.
Still, he said he thinks the attitude of the players is good. They know what they signed up for.
"We came in here and knew what we wanted to accomplish and we accomplished a certain type of play that shows that we are growing and getting better," he said. "It’d be nice to win first year, I think every coach dreams of that but the reality is it’s going to take a while to build. I think they understand that too, because they all talk about what this program is going to be like in three or four years."
The RMAC is one of the tougher women's soccer conferences in the country, with two teams ranked in the top 25 nationally and Colorado School of Mines ranked in the top 10.
Greco thinks that will be a good thing for development. Most of the RMAC is in Colorado, where a lot of good high school talent is. He said although BHSU is about six hours north of most of the Denver-area schools, he said he plans to sell the fact that the Yellow Jackets will be making plenty of trips back to future recruits.
Until then, he said BHSU will simply have to grind through the early years of a new program.
"I think starting off a program in the RMAC is challenging, but we’re recruiting out of the same talent pool and we’ll get there," he said. "Maybe at times I feel like, ‘oh, what am I doing?’ But I think for the most part it’s like ‘no, we can do this.’"
BHSU will travel to Denver next weekend to take on No. 21 ranked Regis Friday and Metro-State Denver Sunday.