Kicking and screaming, but with a purpose

The Women’s Soccer team wrapped up the 2016 season with a 15-4 overall record and a 7-2 record in Centennial Conference play. Although the Garnet fell short in the NCAA tournament, their season as a whole wasn’t short of successes.
           The Women’s Soccer team is really damn good. If you don’t believe me, let the numbers do the talking.  Over the past three years, the squad is 46-14-3, one of the best marks in program history. During that same time period, their goal differential is incredible; they’ve outscored all opponents by 121 goals, scoring 169 times while only letting up 48 times. They’ve also averaged 2.63 goals per game during those years, with the highest mark being their astounding 3.61 average in 2015. In 2015, the Garnet’s goal differential was an unbelievable +70. The Garnet scored 83 times while only allowing 13 goals in the entire season.
           This year, the team had seven players earn All-Centennial Conference honors, many of which have earned the same honors multiple times before. In fact, each of the three members that were selected for First-Team were all selected for First-Team last year. Those three players have combined for seven First-Team selections over the past three years.
           This season, with a 2-1 win over Muhlenberg on the second to last regular season game, the team ensured themselves yet another spot in the Centennial Conference tournament. The team has gotten into a good habit of doing so. The Garnet have forced themselves into the Centennial Conference tournament five times in the last six years, winning the tournament in 2014 by beating Johns Hopkins in penalty kicks.
           The team’s dominance in the conference has been duly rewarded, earning a bid in the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row. This year, the team was given the 63rd bid out of 64, sneaking into the tournament.
           Nobody can forget the incredible run the team had last year. After going 9-0-1 on the season, the Garnet was nearly guaranteed with a spot in the NCAA tournament. The team showed no mercy. The team breezed through the early rounds of the tournament, beating St. Joseph’s College 5-2 and Catholic University 1-0. As expected, teams get better the deeper you go. In a nail-biter, the squad sneaked past Hardin-Simmons University, beating them in penalty kicks. The next challenge was tougher. The NCAA Quarterfinal game featured the #10 ranked Swarthmore and the #1 ranked Messiah College. Messiah, who already has five Division III Women’s Soccer championships to its name, walked away with a 5-0 victory.
           Although this season’s tournament run was not as miraculous, the results are still commendable. The squad traveled to Amherst College in Massachusetts for the first two rounds after hosting the first two rounds last year. After beating Misericordia University 2-1 in the first round, the team went on to lose a hard-fought battle 4-2 against academic rival Amherst College.
           The game was a sure-fire test of the team’s will and tenacity, as an early 4-0 deficit didn’t stop them from cutting the lead in half later in the game. Hannah Lichtenstein ’17, who will actually be returning for another season after missing her freshman year to injury, noted the competition of the teams in the tournament saying, “You know you’re playing with the best teams in the country. You don’t have games where you’re running circles around other teams. I thinking having the mindset of needing to be playing our best soccer gets us prepared for that sort of pressure and that sort of test.”
           Katherine Zavez ’17, a key member of the defense and Centennial Conference Academic Honor Roll Selection, had similar words regarding the competition. She said, “It feels like you get to start a fresh season. You’ve never really seen these teams before in the regular season. Our team does better when we have less room to think. We’re not thinking about our opponents because we might not know a lot about them. The mindset is ‘come ready to fight’ the whole game. The pressure helps step up the play.”
          Lichtenstein also mentioned how important this game was to the team, especially after not performing to expectations in the conference tournament. She said, “We suffered a bad loss in the conference finals, and coming into the tournament, that’s something we wanted to comeback from and get stronger from, especially for our seniors.”
          After falling behind 4-0, Claire O’Brien ’18 scored a goal just minutes before the half. Sydney Covitz ’20 described the team’s emotions going into the second half. “We were pumped, we knew we were still in it. Everyone was so hyped.” Covitz also had similar words regarding the game as a whole. She said, “It was really rough, but we really fought hard, especially in the second half. It’s never good to end on a loss, but I think people were really proud of the way we fought. We fought harder in that game harder than we had ever fought throughout the season. “
          Zavez concurred saying, “We knew we could do it; we knew we could come back. We were playing so well. We were moving the ball around very well. We said, there’s no way we can’t do this. The second half was a 1-0 game. I was really satisfied with the way we came out and played our game.”
          The Garnet will miss the Class of 2017 very much as the class has done so much for the team on and off the field. Marin McCoy ’19 had some incredible words regarding her senior teammates,
          “These seniors made huge impacts in other parts of the game, whether it was defensively, in the midfield or off the field. Caroline and Miranda were so strong in the midfield; they were the reason we could even get scoring opportunities. Justine was so important off the field in keeping up a positive attitude and creating energy. Mele was so important for the morale of the team and was a huge contributor with the danger of her shot, and KZ kept everything together defensively with her communication.”
          McCoy is not far off from the truth as the Class of 2017 is one of the most winningest classes in program history, and often gets praised for their impeccable leadership and dedication to the team. Aside from being incredible players, the class is also filled with incredible people, who consider each other as best friends. Lichtenstein said, “Community is built through adversity. When we were freshman, we didn’t even make playoffs. Being where we are now, a lot of friendship and growth has come about. They’re my best friends. I very much identify with that class. What they’ve done for this program is incredible. The senior class has really put the program on their back and taken it to a new place.”
          Covitz, being a first-year, also talked about her experiences with the seniors and team as a whole, saying, “Our seniors were so amazing, at soccer and as people. On and off the field, my experience with them has been so amazing. This team is so much fun, in additional to being really good.”
          Although experience makes a big difference in college athletics, the Garnet have a promising future. With regard to the Class of 2020, Zavez said, “I was really excited about the first-years this year. They’re a really cool, fun group, and added a lot to the team energywise. I’m excited to see them continue on. They’re great teammates through and through.”
         The team will now enter into the offseason, focusing on eliminating weaknesses and reinforcing strengths. Until next year, they eagerly await their relentless pursuit for another Centennial Conference title.

Ricky Conti

Ricky '19 is a senior math and econ major on the baseball team from SoCal. He is colorblind and always gets the green and red Gatorades mixed up.

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