Differing goals for Whitman Soccer teams

Cole Anderson, Sports Editor

Between the Whitman men’s and women’s soccer teams, both with new coaches starting their first and second years respectively, there remains a lot of work to be done in preparation for the start of conference season in three weeks. But with a new crop of talent in the first-year class, as well as a collective sense of urgency for results, the upcoming season already shows real promise.

Fresh off of their five-day trip to Texas, the men’s team will now set their sights on Walla Walla University, then look towards Linfield, their first conference opponent. Though the Texas trip saw three loses, all with a slim 1-goal margin, the tough competition from large schools and the added experience for the relatively young team was crucial. With the start of a new conference season looming, new Head Coach Jose Cedeno is optimistic about what he has seen so far.

“In the three games [in Texas], I thought there was a lot of growth within the team. There were guys outside of our captains really stepping up and being leaders and those are the types of players we are trying to cultivate,” he said.

Cedeno mentioned sophomore Noah Cavanaugh and junior Eric Conte as players who he saw stepping into early leadership roles outside of team captains Bridger Sellegren (’16), Park Harmon (’16) and Trayvon Foy (’18). But the leadership won’t stop there, he noted.

“We’re giving everyone the opportunity not only to play, but also to be vocal on the team, on and off the field,” Cedeno said.

The 2015 spring season was an opportunity for the team to develop those leadership responsibilities within the team. Without a head coach, players were left to step in and fill bigger roles than usual.

“The off season was very different because we didn’t have a coach behind the scenes organizing things, so it put a lot more pressure on the captains to be organized and dedicated in building each practice session,” said Sellegren, a senior midfielder.

Though somewhat difficult by nature of the transition, the new outlook given by Cedeno has afforded the team a new sense family as well as effort.

“I really want to see the players be creative and expressive on the field. We aren’t going to put as much pressure on winning and losing, but rather… willingness to help the team be successful,” said Cedeno.

Sellegren offered similar sentiments.

“Win as a team, lose as a team, tie as a team. We’re really trying to build a sense of family on the team, regardless of outcomes … The fundamentals of the team from years past… hasn’t changed, but there’s a new mentality for sure so there’s a rebuilding type feeling but it doesn’t look like we’ll have a rebuilding type year,” he said.

A more concrete goal for the team is improving its defense, which has graduated four center defenders over the past two years.

“We want to allow fewer goals this year. Last season the team allowed a pretty large amount and we’d like to cut that by 30 to 40 percent,” Cedeno said.

“By focusing our attention for now on defending well and building from the back, first by having a strong defense, then a creative midfield, and hopefully a very direct offense, we think we’ll be successful.”

The women’s team is a bit less abstract in their goals for the upcoming season.

“My main goal for this season is winning conference, and that’s something I think is certainly attainable. Right now our preseason ranking is number 3 but I think we’re the best team in the conference,” said Kelsey Peck, a senior and captain on the team.

Away at rival Whitworth College to start the conference season, the women’s team will seek to build on its positive results from last season (9-7-4 overall, 7-5-4 conference). Though their coach, Laura Williamson, is back for her second season with the team, it will be the first year in which she will get to work with players she recruited, the new first-years.

Similar to the men’s team, Peck sees most of the room for growth and improvement being in the back line, where the returners are primarily previous outside backs transitioning into a center defensive role.

“Our back line is an area where we’ve seen some potential challenges with losing some seniors. Saba Zewdie [’18], Elyse Laurin [’17] and Naomi Lee [’17] have all been rotating as center backs and they’ve been working together really well,” she said.

Communication has been the main issue, but all three players are improving with every practice and game, establishing connections and building cohesive relationships on the field.

The first conference game for the women is Sept. 16 at Whitworth. The men kick off their season at Linfield College on Sept. 19.