This fall the women’s soccer team is right on track with their successes in past seasons. With an overall record of 5-2-2 and undefeated in conference so far, winning the Midwest Conference Tournament is their main goal and looks to be an achievable one.
It seemed that nothing could stop the team last season when they pulled off an overall record of 14-6-2 and won the Midwest Conference Tournament. Though they had one of their most successful seasons, they suffered an unfortunate loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Wheaton College.
With the addition of a new field renovation this past summer, the Fire now have the venue to match their exceptional performance.
Senior goalkeeper Sierra Daniger says the new field is a great benefit to the team.
“The field renovations have done tremendous things for our team. Now, we are able to play the same style of soccer no matter if it is sunny or rainy,” Daniger said. “We are able to consistently practice without worrying about overworking the grass pitch. This consistency allows us to do what we do best. The way the ball plays on it allows us to translate our game to other fields.”
Senior Jessica Petersen also believes the field is a great advantage, for size and quality.
“For one, the field is much larger than it was before. It is the biggest field we’ll probably play on all season, which is an awesome advantage because it will keep us fit for smaller fields,” Petersen said. “The speed of the turf allows us to play a lot quicker and move the ball around.”
Besides the field, the team has been full of camaraderie this season. Senior Rosie Medina spoke to the chemistry of her team this year.
“This year has been the best year of soccer I’ve taken part in the past few years. Everyone is playing for each other and the well being of the team, no one’s playing anything but their best,” Medina said. “The chemistry is also the best it’s ever been, we all have a ridiculous amount of fun together. It’s a family, not just a team this year.”
Petersen claims that their record may not be as impressive as past years, but this can be attributed to playing more challenging teams, which is an important step in improving as a unit. The women played The University of Chicago in early September and lost 0-3. However, UChicago was ranked second in the country. These more challenging teams will only make the Fire better as a unit.
“Playing a harder schedule is very important to us because it will prepare us better for conference and going forward,” Petersen said. “I think this is the best the team has been since I’ve been here. I think we can go really far this year and playing the teams we have has really prepared us for it.”
Daniger said this new drive for the team to improve comes in part from the freshmen.
“The freshmen have come in with fire in their cleats. Normally there’s an adjustment to the college game, but these girls stepped up and truly took to the game with courage and strength,” Daniger said. “They’ve pushed every returner to work that much harder. They have stepped up and taken it upon themselves to raise the level. It makes everyone better having that young energy and talent.”
Medina is also impressed with the performance of the freshmen.
“The freshmen are more than we could have hoped for,” Medina said. “With a lot of seniors leaving after this season, we’re going to need strong players with experience to keep leading the program and they’ve come in and helped lead the team to a lot of victories this season.”
Petersen said the freshmen push everyone to be better and contribute a lot to the program.
“The freshmen have jumped right in with the rest of the team, which is not always easy. They have scored some great goals for us this year and they are getting some big minutes for us,” Petersen said. “They are all truly great contributions to the team. All of them are really great players and wonderful people. They are so hard-working and push everyone to be better. I can’t wait to see what they do for us this year and going forward.”
The long-term goal of the team as expressed by Daniger is to have a third consecutive shot at the NCAA Tournament. However, they are taking it one step at a time, game by game. The other seniors agree, saying they can’t focus on that end goal without focusing on the little things and fixing them in the moment.
“We take each game as it comes, not looking ahead any further and only learning from our past mistakes. Each game is a specific goal for us to accomplish, whether it be working on tactical plans or strengthening our mentality and work ethic,” Medina said. “Long term goals are to return to our successes from the previous years and even go beyond them. This team is too talented to stop at the Midwest Conference Tournament. We all have a desire to push past what we’ve done.”
Petersen said that right now the team is mainly focused on conference games.
“A team goal right now is to play our game and keep the energy throughout the whole 90 minutes. We have also been working on scoring more goals and playing out of the back more,” Petersen said. “We really take it game by game and try to focus on one opponent at a time. A long term goal is to be the Midwest Conference champions again and make it back to the NCAAs. I think we can really go far this year, but conference is our focus right now.”
The Fire will take on Grinnell on Saturday, Oct. 6 in Iowa at 3:30 p.m. and hope to improve their record while focusing on the goals that have been so important to them.