Women’s Soccer takes talents to the Big Apple

Alden Glass, Sports Reporter

Whitman Women’s Soccer returned from a preseason trip to New York last week having suffered a pair of close losses. With games against New York University and Vassar, the Missionaries had the opportunity to fine tune tactics and lineups the weekend before their first conference game against Whitworth University. Sophomore defender Linnea Soo believes that the results give an unfair representation of how far the team has progressed. 

“In New York, we played NYU and Vassar. I think NYU taught us how to make decisions quickly and how to defend as a cohesive unit. They are definitely one of the better teams we played during our preseason,” said Soo. “Vassar I think we played with a lot of confidence and intensity for the whole game. I think the Vassar game taught us that we have to maintain a high level of play throughout the game, which is hard but I’m confident our team is going to be able to do it.”

The team replaced the four departing seniors from last season’s squad with a small yet strong first-year class and a number of sophomore walk-ons. Senior Captain and midfielder Bri Brown believes there are big things to come from the new additions to the team.

“The [first years] have really established themselves as important parts of our team. They will be a strong class, despite there only being four of them,” said Brown.

The [first years] have really established themselves as important parts of our team. They will be a strong class, despite there only being four of them

— Bri Brown

With all four receiving minutes in the first games of preseason, their additions to the team are taking a very concrete form. Soo agreed with Brown’s optimism about the newcomers and discussed their potentials.

“Kristin [Brady] and Chelsea [Day] really add size that we lack in our lineup. In addition, Chelsea has an amazing shot that we can really utilize this season and Kristin has some phenomenal foot skills that allow her to dribble through multiple defenders,” said Soo. “I think they will become really important members of our team in terms of morale and a positive mindset.”

This will be Head Women’s Soccer Coach Laura Williamson’s second season in charge of the program, and the team is still looking to improve and change in order to build upon their successes from last year. After a strong first half of the season, the team’s challenge for the title faltered in the latter stages of the conference schedule. This was, in part, due to a number of injuries to important players all over the field. Junior defender Elyse Laurin discussed how the team is attempting to ensure that they can remain healthy and fit for the entirety of this campaign.

“We’re trying to take care of our bodies as that was an issue for us last year, with injuries and just being too worn out to play our best game,” said Laurin. “So we’re doing more pool workouts and stretching and just really taking care of ourselves.”

After losing both starting center backs to graduation, the team was left with big shoes to fill in the heart of the defense. However, with the emergence of Laurin and fellow junior Naomi Lee, and a renewed focus on defensive shape, the back line has become a solid foundation for the team. Laurin discussed the rigors of changing positions to playing as a defender and how the team has stepped up to work on defending together.

“We’re really working on defensive shape, and trying to make sure we play defense and offense as a team. We’re also trying a different formation this year, a 4-2-3-1 and we hope that will work better for the players we have this year,” said Laurin. “I’m hoping I’m in good enough shape to play a full 90. This is my first time playing center back since freshmen year of high school. I hope to keep improving and learn [to position myself] better.”

After only conceding more than one goal only once in all of preseason, it appears that the focus on defending as a team has been paying off. In addition to increased attention to their physical wellbeing and defending, the team has adopted a new motto: #We’veDecidedToGetLoud. When asked to explain the phrase, Brown had a simple but enlightening answer.

“I believe we have the skill and drive to compete for the NWC title this year and everyone on our team is on board with that being the overall goal this season. I want to have a successful and fun final year and I can’t think of a better way to do that,” said Brown. “We are stronger, faster, and more energetic when we’re making noise so we’ve decided to get loud this year.”