Whitman women’s soccer aims to end on high note

Bailey Arango

Amy Hasson '12 engages with the competition as she goes up for a header in Whitman's game against Pacific on Oct 23. Despite outshooting Pacific 23 to 7, Whitman was unable to capitalize on early opportunities. The game ended in a 2-2 tie. Photo Credit: David Jacobson

The Whitman women’s soccer team enters this weekend hoping to write a positive ending for a season defined by disappointment. The Missionaries, who entered the 2010 season with hopes of finishing atop the Northwest Conference, have a record of 5-10-1 entering their final home-stand of the season, in which they face off against conference rivals Linfield College on Saturday, Oct. 30 and Willamette University on Sunday, Oct. 31.

The Missionaries have already lost to both Linfield and Willamette on the road earlier this season, in a manner representative of the close calls and near misses that have shaped Whitman’s losing record. Whitman’s loss to Linfield in McMinnville, Ore. earlier in this month was emblematic of the Missionaries’ road woes, which have seen them go 2-7 away from home. Whitman’s loss to Willamette showed how the Whitman women overwhelm the Bearcats on offense, landing 11 shots on goal to Willamette’s 7, only to come up empty-handed.

Yet despite injuries, close losses and dashed post-season aspirations, the Whitman women still maintain a desire to make the best of the games to come, as well as a shared sense of promise for the 2011 campaign, as junior and starting keeper Lauren Brougham was eager to emphasize.

“We’ve had some disappointing results the last couple of weekends with a lot of really close games, and sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce our way, but we’ve shown a lot of character and we haven’t let up yet,” she said.

Brougham, who overcame the elements to make a handful of stellar saves in Whitman’s rainy 2-0 loss to George Fox University on October 24, sees in Whitman’s disappointing season all the ingredients for a bright future.

“I’m super excited for next season, because we have an extremely strong team this year and we don’t have a large senior class to replace.”

First-year Kelsey Roehner, whose offensive efforts have been instrumental to the Missionaries’ successes this season, shares Brougham’s optimism for things to come.

“We’re losing two seniors, which is sad, but it means we’re going to have a really strong base of really talented people going forward into next year. We’re all keeping pretty positive; we have everything there on the field and we’ve been beating the teams we’ve played as far as possession and opportunities are concerned, but we’ve had a few mental lapses, and they cost us games. We haven’t quite been able to put one in the back of the net to even it out, but we have all the heart and we have all the talent and skill to get there, we just haven’t put it all together for a full 90 yet.”

Also added to the setbacks facing the Missionaries is the transition from longtime coach Scott Shields to first-year Whitman women’s soccer coach Heather Cato. While team chemistry and confidence in the coaching staff are riding high, this season has not been without difficult transitions.

“We dominate almost every game, but that doesn’t show up in our overall results,” Brougham said, “and we’re also getting used to a new style of play. Whitman has always been a more defensive team and this year we’re playing a different formation that allows us to get more numbers up top, and it presents more scoring opportunities. Although we’ve adapted really well, we haven’t mastered the new formation yet, and it puts a lot more pressure on the defense on counter attacks. We have to work more on attacking and defending as a unit, but that’s something that playing with each other will fix over time.”

Despite some growing pains, Roehner said Cato’s first year of coaching was a great success.

“We all love her,” Roehner said. “She’s really brought the team together and gotten us all on the same wavelength. We all have the same goals and we all know what we want to accomplish when we step on the field as a team, and that’s been a really good feeling. It’s like we’re all working towards the same thing, and she’s really the one who facilitated that.”

Although the Missionaries came up short of their ambitions in 2010, hope springs eternal for a Whitman women’s soccer team looking forward to fielding an experienced, highly-motivated assault on the Northwest Conference in 2011.

As Brougham put it, “We plan on proving to the conference that Whitman is not a team that should be taken lightly.”