Women’s soccer aims to recapture the momentum of early 2016 season

by Cole Sheeks, Sports Editor
Follow him at @ColeSheeks

The EC Women’s soccer team will be looking for more consistency this fall, as they strive to compete among the elite teams in the CCIW.

The 2016 campaign was truly a tale of tale of two seasons for the team. During their non-conference schedule, the Bluejays compiled an 8-1 record, including a seven game winning streak to begin their season and outscored their opponents 16-5; however, once CCIW play began, the Bluejays looked like a different team as they stumbled to a 2-6 record with six consecutive scoreless outings during the middle of the conference schedule.

File Photo   Megan Mrazek battles with an Albion player at Langhorst Field.

File Photo

Megan Mrazek battles with an Albion player at Langhorst Field.

“We struggled all season consistently creating scoring opportunities, but we were very opportunistic in front of the goal during that [non-conference] stretch,” said head coach Paul Webster. “We also did an excellent job of not conceding goals early in the season. We need to put more pressure on our opponents in their half to create more chances and continue our ability to not concede goals in bunches to be more successful this season.”

In order to do that, the Bluejays will need to have confidence in their goaltending. With goalie Emily Gordon graduating from the program, Webster will turn to a young group of goalkeepers, led by incoming sophomore Sophia Tuliglowski, who made 22 saves in 476 minutes of playing time as a freshman last season.

“We have three very capable goalkeepers on the roster this year. Sophia has the most experience and overall ability. Bryce has improved tremendously the past two seasons and Katie will push both of them” said Webster, in reference to junior Bryce Marchetti and freshman Katie Nibbi. “We are very fortunate to have had good goalkeeping every year I’ve been here and [I] expect the same this year whomever plays.”

In addition to the goalkeepers, the Bluejays also bring back a number of other contributors from last season’s team. Incoming senior Kim Stanczak will look to improve upon the team-leading 17 points she scored as a junior, Sidney O’Keefe is a junior who brings experience as an All-CCIW forward, and incoming junior Brittany Reinhart returns with two years of starting experience.

“Kim, Brittany, and Sidney are very different players technically and how they affect the game. Kim gets herself in dangerous areas in front of goal. Sidney is very effective turning and running at opponents with the ball. Brittany has the ball winning ability and technical range to dictate the tempo of our attack in midfield and wreck the opponent’s ability to play through midfield,” Webster said. “The one thing they all have in common is a high work rate.”

Junior’sKennedy Irmen and Jami Lessila are both expected to play larger roles on the team this season and the Bluejays have also added experience to their roster with the addition of two transfer students, sophomore Madison Howe and freshman Annalisa Lappo. Incoming freshmen Heather Hoffman, Hayley Parr, and Valentina Poggi all figure to see time on the field as well.

In their preseason poll, coaches around the conference have pegged the Bluejays to finish 7th in the CCIW this fall. Webster has his expectations set higher.

“Our goals are to get better everyday, continue developing resiliency, manage fatigue, and to be playing our best soccer when conference play begins to put us in [a] position to qualify for tournament play,” he said.

The Bluejays begin their season at Langhorst Field on Sept. 1 as they face off against Fontbonne University in a 7:30 p.m. game. Their CCIW schedule will begin on Sept. 27 when they visit Augustana College.