The Wesleyan women’s soccer team ended its season with a defeat at the hands of NESCAC rival Conn College. The Cardinals held the previously 12-2 Camels scoreless through the first half, but two second-half goals earned the nationally-ranked Camels a 2-1 victory. The Cardinals end the season with a record of 1-12-1 overall and 0-9-1 in NESCAC play. The Camels, on the other hand, finish the regular season at 13-2, and 8-2 in conference play. This is the first year the Cardinals have failed to qualify for the NESCAC tournament since 2007, although the season was full of close games and some missed opportunities; the team had eight one-goal losses on the year, along with three games decided by a 2-0 score.
Conn barraged the Wesleyan net in the first half and held a 12-1 advantage in shots. However, the Cardinals’ back four proved strong, keeping multiple scoring opportunities off the board.
In the second half, the Cardinals came out with a vengeance. They battled the Camels shot for shot, exchanging shots off the crossbar; each team had multiple scoring opportunities. However, it was Conn’s Grace Bilodeau who broke the scoreless tie, putting in a left-footed shot off the post. Not long after, however, Wesleyan’s Sarah Sylla ’17 answered with a left-footed shot high into the right corner that found the back of the net. Sylla’s third goal of the season came a mere 57 seconds after the Camels struck and tied her for the team lead in goals. However, it was Conn who would strike again in the 79th minute, when the Camels’ Livi Block found twine on a long curling shot near the left post. The 2-1 score would remain through the 90th minute, and the Redbirds’ second half rally came up short once again. The Cardinals, who trailed in shots 12-1 at the half, played a closer game in the second half, trailing 14-7 after halftime. Rachel Hobert ’16 got the start in net for Wesleyan, keeping the Camels scoreless through the half while making five saves. Meghan Hanan ’18 started the second half for the Cardinals by saving four of six shots on net before being removed for Jessica Tollman ’15, in what would end up being Tollman’s last game as a Wesleyan Cardinal.
Sylla reflected on what proved to be a difficult season for the squad.
“I think this season was tough, but definitely important because we learned a lot as a team about what we need to do differently moving forward,” Sylla said. “We unfortunately had a lot of injuries and few numbers, which made everything difficult from practice to games. I think we played well in many games and didn’t get the outcomes we deserved some of the time.”
Sylla laid out a plan for the team in order to improve next year.
“To make the next step, I think it’s important to look at the entire team,” Sylla said. “I feel that everyone needs to step up in terms of fitness, foot skills, and their overall game. If everyone works hard this year and works on what they need to improve, I think the team will really benefit next season.”
Sylla also spoke about being one of the team’s leaders in goals, emphasizing that it was always a team effort.
“I’m happy to be a leading scorer, but I definitely cannot give myself all the credit,” Sylla said. “My goals came from my teammates playing me great crosses or through balls and overall, each goal was a team effort. I hope next year the leading scorer will have many more goals!”
Although it was certainly a frustrating season for the Cardinals, there were a few positives to take away from the year. The Cardinals’ lone win of the year occurred in late September against Eastern Connecticut State. The team was able to enjoy its victory on home turf. The Cardinals were also able to tie a big NESCAC foe, Tufts, on September 16.
Marisa Yang ’16 was the team’s other leading scorer for the season. She tied for the team lead in goals with three, along with Sylla, and also dished out one assist on the year, for a combined seven points. Sylla finished second on the team in scoring, with three goals as well, for six points. Madeline Keane ’16 finished third on the team in points, with one goal and three assists, for a combined five points.
Tollman led the team in appearances in net, appearing in 13 games on the season and starting 12. Tollman had a goals-against average of 1.30 per game, made a total of 56 saves on the season, and recorded one shutout. Hobert made seven appearances in net for the Cardinals and started three games. Hobert made 32 total saves on the season.
A common trend in many of the team’s one-goal losses was allowing opponents to take the lead late in games. On the season, the Cardinals were only outscored by one goal in the first half, by a margin of 5-4, but they were outscored 20-6 in the second half of games, leading the Cardinals to press for a late goal often. If the team is looking for one area in which to improve, it must start with getting on the board early.