As the calendar turns to September and students try to enjoy the last week of summer before classes start, the Wesleyan women’s soccer team has kicked off their preseason practices this week. The Cardinals will try to build upon the successes of last year and prepare for their first game a week from Saturday.
Last year, the team had a historic, record-breaking season. The Red and Black beat Amherst for the first time in 25 years, at home, on homecoming weekend. The team also finished with a 8-5-3 record, its best record in eight years. The Cards’ 4-3-3 NESCAC record was also their best record in conference during Head Coach Eva Meredith’s tenure. Their conference record qualified them for the NESCAC playoffs for the first time since 2013, where they lost to Tufts on the road in a close 2-0 game.
The team is looking to improve upon its previous record as most of its key players return from last year. This includes offensive competitor Gianna Argento ’21, who tied for the team lead with six goals. The Cardinals also welcome back Julia Meehan ’20, co-captain and defensive enforcer, and Allie Goss ’20, who had a team-high four assists last year.
Despite these returning players, the team also graduated nine seniors last spring, including co-leading scorers Liz Young and Lauren Goetzman who each contributed goals. The Cardinals will need some of the younger players to step up and fill the void left by the former seniors on offense.
Unfortunately, the team has already experienced a few injuries. With what seems like a pattern continued from last year, the Birds are subject to a number of knee injuries. Returning forwards Katie Frizzell ’20 and Zoe Oasis ’21 have a history of knee injuries that make playing this season unlikely.
The Cards are welcoming nine new first-year students to the team, and so far, co-captain Emily Ribatt ’21 is pleased with how the team is coming together over the first few days of practice.
“Preseason has been great so far,” Ribatt said in an interview with The Argus. ”Everyone has been working very hard and the team is playing together and developing as a unit. We have been very focused on new tactics and are looking forward to starting the season.”
The Cards’ schedule doesn’t open up easily. The season starts with a match-up against Middlebury, who was the second-best team in the NESCAC and the runner-up of the DIII National Championship game last year. Right after, the Red and Black host the defending national champions and Little Three rival, Williams.
This tough early schedule gives the Cards more than one opportunity to prove that they can be real contenders in the NESCAC. A win against either Williams or Middlebury would set the Birds up well for the rest of the season, preparing the team for tough road stretches against teams like Trinity and Amherst. No game in the NESCAC is an easy one, especially on the road, so it’s crucial they get off to a good start at home—where they went undefeated last year with a 4-0-3 record.
Ribatt stressed the importance of preparation and effort in accomplishing the team’s goals this season.
“We play some very challenging teams in the beginning of our season so being prepared to play hard will be really important,” she said. “If each player continues to put in the effort that we have shown so far in preseason, we’ll be ready to take on those highly ranked teams in the NESCAC.”
Ribatt also added that the team can use the lessons learned through last year’s success to be even better and grow as a team this season.
“Last year, we learned that even when faced with new challenges, working together and playing for each other makes us a stronger team,” Ribatt said. “Having the confidence to know we can take on any team through hard work and connected play will be key going into the first couple big games and starting the season off strong.”
The team kicks off their home season, in which they did not lose one game last year, with a tough matchup against Middlebury on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 11 a.m. The team continues to hold a home field advantage with their second game just three days later in their Sept. 10 game against Rhode Island College.
David Gottlieb can be reached at email@example.com.