The women’s soccer team has a strong backfield, but offensive questions loom as the team enters its 2014 season.

After tying five of its ten conference games in 2013, the women’s soccer team knows how important every goal will be in its 2014 season.

Head Coach Eva Meredith is entering her eleventh year at the helm of the team. With Jess Tollman ’15 minding the net and Co-Captains Brynn Hansson ’15, Katy Hardt ’15, and Hannah Stone ’15 leading a sturdy defensive core, the team knows how to work its own end of the field.  Their biggest concern, then, will be on the attack.

Last season, the Birds managed just three multi-goal games and were blanked in nine, four of which were scoreless ties. Sarah Sylla ’17 was the only player to log more than one goal on the year, and the Cards ranked last in the conference with ten goals. They hope that their incoming first-years will infuse some offensive firepower onto the pitch.

Returning midfielder Katie O’Brien ’15 is excited to see what the freshmen bring, after a week of preseason two-a-days.

“The freshmen have played really well,” O’Brien said.  “They’ve acclimated to the team so quickly, and they fit well into our chemistry. They’re really hard-working, and their work ethics are great.”

“[The first-years] have been very open, which is an important part of being on our team,” midfielder Hannah Jellinek ’15 said of the newcomers, four of whom are listed as midfielders. “Everyone, especially the freshmen, are all okay with being put in different positions, and have such great attitudes.”

The backbone of the team continues to be its defense. The Cards held their opponents to either one or zero goals in ten matches last season, and Tollman ranked among the NESCAC elite with a .90 goals against average and a .860 save percentage, good for fourth in the league in both categories.

Going forth, communication will be a key part of maintaining strong team play. O’Brien says the team is confident in this regard, thanks to their senior captains in the backfield.

“It helps a ton having that talk from the back; it helps us play with confidence,” O’Brien said.  “[Co-Captain Hansen] is such a great communicator, and that helps keep us all on the same page.”

Despite some of its deficits last season, there is definitely cause for optimism about the team’s chances this season. The team played very well against the NESCAC elite in 2013 and knows what it must do to find more success this year.

“We all know that we have to beat teams that we haven’t defeated before, like Amherst and Williams,” Jellinek said.

Five squads from the ’Cac qualified for the NCAA tournament last year, including Amherst, Middlebury, and Trinity. The Cards played the former two to scoreless draws, and downed the Bantams in a 2-0 shutout victory.

Wesleyan had its first tune-up in the form of two scrimmages last Sunday behind Freeman Athletic Center, where it defeated Conn College in its first match of the day and fell 1-0 to Yale in the day’s second pairing.  The squad looked particularly strong in the first game, minimizing turnovers and capitalizing on the mistakes of their Camel counterparts.

Jellinek thinks that Sunday’s scrimmages were a preview of what will help the Cards maintain the consistency that they could not find last season.

“We need to play quickly, one-two touch, move the ball, be really tough, and go hard on tackles,” said the fourth-year, who, like most of the Cards’ seniors, has played in four of Wes’s seven all-time NESCAC playoff games. “We have to stick together and stay positive…If we do that, we’ll achieve our season goals, which are to make the playoffs with a top-four seed.”

O’Brien thinks the team’s philosophy will continually inspire them as the year progresses and the matches get tougher.

“Our team word this year is grit,” she said. “It has a lot of meanings: hard work, determination, fight, battle, perseverance…all of which will be important to remember as we get into those Little Three games.”

The Cardinals open their regular season with a non-league match at UMass Boston on Wednesday, Sept. 3, where they hope to earn a win and gain steam before their all-important first in-league game, which will be Saturday, Sept. 6, at home against Bowdoin.

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