In the last half decade, Swarthmore athletics has seen a renaissance of sorts, with four team sports competing in the NCAA tournament last year, three of them reaching the Elite Eight, and three other sports sending athletes to NCAA individual championships. One of the leaders of this renaissance has been the women’s soccer team, which has competed in the NCAA tournament for the past four seasons, including an appearance in the 2015 national quarterfinals. And this season is looking like it should be no different than any of those past seasons, as the Garnet have been blistering hot to start the 2018 season, going 4-0 and scoring eight times while only conceding one goal.
It would not have been particularly surprising had the Garnet stumbled out of the gate this season, having lost a number of key seniors. The “Big Three” of Hannah Liechtenstein, Katie Dougherty, and Marin McCoy ՚19 was finally dissolved as both Dougherty and Liechtenstein graduated. Liechtenstein scored 33 times during her time wearing the garnet and white, good for third in school history, and is now playing professionally in Sweden. Katie Dougherty was right on her heels in scoring prowess, having found the back of the net 32 times.
“[It’s] hard to replace that much experience but we’ve got a lot of players with goal-scoring potential on our team who’ve been working, competing and ready for their chance…even several of our defenders were forwards before they arrived at Swat. We have tons of speed as well and there are goal scorers in the first year class as well, regardless of where they’re playing on the pitch,” said Head Coach Todd Anckaitis on replacing the two forwards.
The Garnet also graduated Clare O’Brien, their starting center-back from last season, and Sarah Hancock, who only failed to start once in the midfield in her final two seasons for the Garnet. Converted keeper Sommer Denison, the hero of the Garnet’s penalty shootout victory over Johns Hopkins in the Centennial Conference Championship, also graduated.
Instead, Marin McCoy has flashed her individual scoring ability to help the Garnet maintain their hot start to the season. She has netted five times and assisted on another goal, and she earned Centennial Player of the Week honors for last week. This is the best start to the season for the two-time All-American since her freshman year, and she is only two goals away from her 50th career goal. Brittany Weiderhold ՚20 has also scored twice in limited minutes as a reserve, already bettering her one-goal tally from her injury shortened sophomore season. She flashed plenty of goal-scoring promise as a freshman, scoring three times, and finally looks to cash in on that talent as the Garnet look to replace the offense of Dougherty and Liechtenstein. Sydney Covitz ՚20 has also scored for the Garnet and turned provider on a pair of goals.
Seneca Kinn-Gurzo ՚20 has also assisted on two goals, and her development as a distributor from the midfield been one of the biggest improvements for the Garnet, perhaps best exemplified by a perfectly placed through ball to Weiderhold that set up her first goal of the season against Stevens. She has also proved threatening from distance with a couple of near misses, adding an additional dimension to the Garnet’s offense. The Garnet also bring back Lizzie King ՚21, an All-Centennial selection last season, although she has been quiet to start the 2018 season.
The defense for the Garnet remains solid as ever with Yasmeen Namazie ՚19, an All-Centennial selection last season, anchoring an experienced starting back four, along with Melissa Curran ՚19, Caroline Coats ՚19, and Eleonore Moser ՚20. The Garnet defense has, on average, conceded less than a goal per game over the past four years, and has so far only allowed one goal this season. This stellar defense has allowed Coach Anckaitis to get a good look at the Garnet’s potential goalie of the future, Chantal Reyes ՚22, as she has played three halves of soccer so far. This has also kept veteran Amy Shmoys fresh, and she is yet to let in a goal.
“Our goalkeeper corps really pushes each other and Amy is providing great leadership to both Syd [Sydney White ‘22] and Chantal,” said Anckaitis.
The Garnet are coming off of a pair of victories at the Engineering Cup in Hoboken, their second consecutive year winning the tournament. A McCoy brace led the squad to a 2-1 Friday victory over Vassar, and the scoring turned more democratic on Sunday against NYU, with McCoy, Covitz, and Weiderhold all finding the back of the net.
As part of the Garnet’s early season success, they have been able to play with a wide open bench. All rostered outfield players have seen the pitch for the Garnet so far this season (including six freshmen). The early season rotation plays into the Garnet’s goal of a long run in the postseason.
“We have realized over the last few years that [with the possibility of] playing back to back games in the postseason for four straight weekends, we need to not just get players in when the game is “comfortable” but to create a bigger rotation of subs that is comfortable coming in even in critical moments and not just biding time but making an impact,” said Anckaitis.
The Garnet look to continue their early season dominance with a road trip to Carlisle, PA on Saturday to take on the Dickinson Red Devils, and then another game on Sunday against Penn State Berks. The Garnet beat Dickinson 3-0 last season but have never faced Penn State Berks.