A class of 10 first-years joins 14 veterans, to add offensive potency around defensive core

The women’s soccer team kicks off its 2015 season on Wednesday with a home matchup against University of Massachusetts Boston. The Cards will try to avenge a 1-0 loss to the Beacons in their opener last year.

Plagued by injuries and bad luck, the squad finished their 2014 campaign at 1-12-2 (0-9-1 NESCAC). After posting a record of 36-31-8 over 2008-2012 seasons, the Cardinals have slipped off the pace of this intense league in recent seasons.

Head Coach Eva Meredith is entering her 12th year at the helm of the program. and despite losing eight seniors, the Birds return seven starters. Tri-captains Marisa Yang ’16, Kaylie Williams ’16, and Rachel Hobert ’16 look to lead a talented team, including ten first-years, into NESCAC post-season contention.

Yang and Sarah Sylla ’17 tied for team lead in goals last season, with three each. Williams will once again anchor the Wesleyan defense after missing the last eleven games of the 2014 season due to injury.

With a talented defensive core, the Cardinals hope to improve offensively this season after netting only 10 goals last season. With the return of the team’s two leading scorers, as well as the addition of some talented first-years, the Birds should have the weapons they need to compete in the NESCAC. Though the team only recorded one win last season, it never lost by more than 2 goals, and gave up 3 or more goals only once. If such defensive prowess carries over into this season, consistent scoring is all it will take to make the squad competitive in the NESCAC and beyond.

Starting defender Carly Swenson ’17 commented on the hard work put in by the team this preseason, and praised the high intensity environment both Meredith and the team are striving to cultivate this year.

“Our team’s goal is to push each other every practice and game,” Swenson said. “We’ve put a lot of work into defining our style of play and reaching our optimal fitness level.”

Clearly, all the hard work is beginning to pay off. In a preseason scrimmage, Wes bested defending NESCAC champs Conn College. The Camels beat Wesleyan 2-1 in the Cardinals’ final contest of the 2014 season.

Preseason success has given the squad the confidence needed for a strong start to the season.

“We’re all extremely excited for this season, and ready to win,” Swenson said.

She also praised the first-years Meredith has brought on board this year. Consistent offensive production is something the Cardinals lacked last season, so the emergence of a prolific scorer from this class would mean great things for the team.

After taking on the Beacons on Wednesday, the Cardinals will gear up for a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader this weekend, with a home match against St. Lawrence University, followed by an away contest against Albertus Magnus College.

After three straight out-of-conference matchups to start the season, Wesleyan will begin its NESCAC campaign next Tuesday with a home game against Tufts. The Cards and the Jumbos tied 1-1 in 2014.

One potential issue for the Redbirds early on will be the goalkeeper position. The squad initially looked to captain Rachel Hobert ’16 to replace Jessica Tollman ’15, though injury has created uncertainty as to who will start come Wednesday at 4:30.

Regardless, a strong defense complemented by a revitalized offense should give Wesleyan women’s soccer the pieces they need for a successful start to the season. The team has flashy new uniforms, and the attitude to match.

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