The Northwest women’s soccer team is preparing for the 2019 season with a fresh start and a chance to redeem themselves after a rather forgettable 2018 campaign.
The Bearcats finished last season 2-15; they had six one-goal losses last season that could have gone either way. Coach Marc Gordon said last season his team struggled to score goals.
“We had some growth this offseason; our team last year had to learn a new system and a way of coaching, and the way I do things was a different experience for the young team we had,” Gordon said.
Gordon also believes the team spending the spring and winter working together helped build a foundation in order to move the program forward was essential. The Bearcats reload this season with 20 returning players, many of whom being players who logged decent minutes throughout last season.
“We had players throughout the season we weren’t expected to see a lot of time, but through the process and the struggles we had, there were extensive minutes for those players,” Gordon said. “Our growth and the return of players and the buy-in from our process makes us more confident that this year will be more successful.”
To address the Bearcats' attacking ability, an area they lacked in last year, Gordon brought in 11 new recruits to further equip their scoring arsenal. Attacking is one of the Bearcats’ biggest focuses this season; last season, they were out scored 39 goals to 9, while recording just 83 shots on goal, which was a very underwhelming amount compared to teams around the nation.
The coaching staff is excited for two international players to be joining the team this season: Emilie Swaerd from Rykkinn, Norway, and Merel Marting from Riemst, Belgium.
“They bring a unique understanding of the game that maybe a lot of our American players don’t,” Gordon said. “They have meshed with the program very quickly and helped build on the team chemistry we have going.”
Freshmen Kaylie Rock and Atiana Stratman could be two impact players for the Bearcats down the road, two aggressive forwards who were very highly-touted recruits that excelled at communicating on the field. While Rock and Stratman may be the future of the Bearcats, they do have some key players: returning goalkeeper Alexis Serna-Castillo, defender Emily Madden and forward Joanna Shaw.
Serna-Castillo recorded 75 saves for the Bearcats as the starting goalie for most of the season. Madden and Shaw accounted for four of the nine goals last season. These players could make even more of an impact with their experience and chemistry this season with the addition of more talent. Assistant coach Quaid Curtin and graduate assistant Nyla Peterkin were impressed by the commitment that was shown by the 'Cats throughout the offseason.
“This year's team chemistry is much better. … We are seeing a lot more cohesiveness and that will help us prepare and get over any challenges that we might not have gotten over last year,” Curtin said.
According to the MIAA coaching and media polls, the Bearcats are projected to finish the season last in the MIAA, which would be expected for a team that finished last year's conference stretch with a 1-10 record. The season will begin on the road against the Drury Panthers, who are predicted to finish 15th in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, the game is set for Sept. 6 in Springfield, Missouri.
“We are going to do everything we can to turn this thing around and I think this year is going to be a good start.” Gordon said.