The women’s soccer team played their first two conference opponents this week, defeating Lawrence University 10-0 and Beloit College 6-0. These wins improved the team’s season record to 5-4.
For junior goaltender Sierra Daniger, this was the way she envisioned kicking off the conference season.
“It was a great way to open up our conference, we really challenged ourselves to make sure we stayed up the entire game and didn’t have any lulls in our plays. Overall I think we did just that. We came out with a dominating presence,” Daniger said.
Junior forward Alex Robertson was happy to see the entire team have an opportunity to show their skills during the two games.
“I think that it’s really cool that the whole bench is getting in and people who usually don’t score are getting to score,” Robertson said.
After a difficult start to the season, the team enjoyed these two blowout wins against conference opponents, reassuring them that they are in a good position moving forward.
“We had a tough pre-conference schedule in terms of playing a lot of ranked teams and adjusting to a new coach and a new system and stuff like that. But I think this weekend showed our system works. Like last year we struggled a little with Beloit, but this year there wasn’t any trouble at all,” Daniger said.
Coach Chris Haught-Thompson, hired after former coach Paul Lawrence departed for Florida Southern College following last season, was hired away from Virginia Military Institute.
Haught-Thompson brought with him a different system and style of play to the team this year. Though it took some time to learn the new system, the team is starting to see the fruits of their labors.
To junior midfielder Bryssa Montez, Haught-Thompson is helping the program continue to evolve.
“I think our previous coach Paul Lawrence did a good job setting the foundation for the program and I think our new coach Chris is doing a really good job of taking what he started and trying to propel us to the next level. He pushes us physically, too, which I think is really to our advantage,” Montez said.
Robertson agrees, explaining the importance of the high fitness levels Haught-Thompson has encouraged.
“I think that was really good because now we can outlast teams. … When you’re competing against a team that’s pretty equal to you, that’s kind of what it takes sometimes,” Robertson said.
The team is hoping that this new system and physical fitness can propel them to even greater heights than their record-breaking season a year ago.
Montez is hoping to just take it one game at a time instead of looking too far forward.
“I think we just strive game by game, we focus on the game at hand that week and our goal is just to win that game and do it playing our style of soccer,” Montez said.
For Robertson, the end-goal is making it back to the Division III Nationals tournament and advancing further than last year.
Daniger agrees, seeing great potential in this team.
“I think the biggest thing this season is the team wants to keep progressing forward and we want to be more of a dominating force on the field, even more so than we were previously,” Daniger said.
Montez has seen a serious shift in the expectations other teams in the conference have placed on Knox’s team this season.
“This is my third year, so the first couple of years we were the underdogs, nobody expected us to do as well as we did, but now we kind of need to uphold that expectation and try to exceed it in the national tournament,” Montez said.
With two statement performances against conference opponents this week, Knox women’s soccer seems poised to follow up last year’s historic accomplishments with an even stronger season.
Editor’s note: Erika Riley contributed reporting to this story.