The women’s soccer squad came out full steam on Wednesday to capture their first win of the season, beating Mount Holyoke 3-1—the third straight year the Cards have defeated Holyoke.
The victory marks the first time in recent history that Wesleyan has started the season with a win, an indication of strong team leadership in getting this year’s squad prepared. Wesleyan is entering the season with nine returning starters as well as an impressive 17 letter-winners.
“Our returning players have really stepped it up and they have a lot more experience under their belt,” said tri-captain Marissa Trevisan ’09.
The Cards struck first just over six minutes into the game when Yuri Hoshino ’09 struck a centering pass from Emma Nitzberg ’12 with her left foot, sending the ball to the upper- left corner of the net, and exciting the sizeable crowd. Despite the fact that the Cardinals were the dominant team, many of their chances either didn’t make it on net or were turned away by the Lyons keeper.
In the 22nd minute, Mount Holyoke capitalized on a free kick to tie up the game. A Holyoke midfielder played the ball over the Wesleyan defense to an unmarked attacker who went in on goalkeeper Andrea Giuliano ’09 unopposed and was able to place the ball past her. The first half ended with the score tied, despite Wesleyan out-shooting Mount Holyoke 10-1.
“We dominated first half, but just by the sheer fact that we were more skilled,” said tri-captain Sam Blank ’09. “We didn’t control the game in the way that we wanted to in the first half. We were also a second-half team in the past, so this game really highlighted the fact that we need to be ready to play from the moment the whistle blows.”
The Cards seemed to wake up in the second half, as the players completed many good touches and put more pressure on the Holyoke defenders, coming up with their second goal in the first five minutes of play. After Kaitlin Ashley ’11 fought the goaltender for a loose ball near the box, the Holyoke goalie felt Ashley’s pressure and mistakenly cleared the ball directly to Hillary Biggs ’12, who had been following the play. Briggs intercepted the clear and touched the ball around the diving goalie to give Wesleyan the lead.
The Cardinal attackers kept the pressure on from that point, with great attempts from both Horishima and Blank. However, it was Biggs again who scored the final goal in the 70th minute by pounding a shot 20 yards out into the upper corner of the goal, giving the Cardinals all the insurance they would need.
“Biggs is extremely fast and did a great job today,” Trevisan said. “She came in off the bench and provided a real spark for the team. She was really feisty. The freshman class has been great so far and they will have a big impact this year.”
The game ended 3-1, with the Cardinals out-shooting the Lyons 20-7. Gavi Elkind ’09 was the keeper in the second half, making a few timely saves to preserve the lead.
“Goalkeeping is definitely one of our strengths,” Trevisan said. “We have three very capable goalies on the team this year who have proven themselves in practices and scrimmages. Both Andrea and Gavi were solid today.”
Blank noted that the second half of the game showcased the team’s talent.
“In the second half, we really worked for each other off the ball and got pressure up higher on Mount Holyoke’s defense, forcing them to make more errors that we could turn around into good chances,” Blank said. “We looked at today as preparation for Saturday. We felt pretty confident going into the game and wanted to take positive energy from a win today into Saturday’s game.”
This Saturday, Wesleyan will open conference play against NESCAC powerhouse Bowdoin College. The Polar Bears were 6-3 in conference play and finished in third place last season. They have also proven to be a barricade between Wesleyan and the esteemed NESCAC tournament. The past three seasons, Bowdoin has beaten Wesleyan in their final regular season game, ending any hopes for tournament play.
Blank was confident that the squad could win this weekend, but acknowledged they will need to improve upon Wednesday’s performance.
“To be successful on Saturday, we need to work on our mental readiness and preparedness and being more dangerous on the attack,” she said. “There were many times today when we were stagnant at front and didn’t force the defense to make mistakes.”
No matter what happens Saturday, it is clear that the Cardinals will be a force to be reckoned with this season. Last fall they lost six of their NESCAC games by just one goal and were competitive in each game.
“Knowing how close we came so many times last year is making the returnees even hungrier this year,” Trevisan said. “If we take it one step further and constantly challenge each other to bring up our level of play, then we will be very successful. With eight players, this is our largest senior class so far, and we are all very determined to leave Wesleyan and our last collegiate soccer season having gotten to the tournament.”