No. 2 soccer team shows improvement

Pernilla Schickhardt

When finishing second in the MIAA conference this season, Washburn’s soccer program made a statement; they are more than people expect them to be.

After two years of not meeting their own expectations, the Lady Blues have managed to raise the bar and now surpasses most.

“We exceeded my expectations. I wouldn’t say I was surprised, I knew that everybody would work hard and do well,” said head coach Tim Collins.

Far from satisfied with the results of their past, the team worked hard last summer. Still, they were ranked low in all preseason polls.

“We knew, as a team, that we wanted to do more,” said senior defender Lora Westling.

The Lady Blues have gradually become better and better during this season. The defense has improved tremendously, the game is more offensive and the team is playing with greater consistency.

“From our first game to our last game, we have been like two different teams,” said Westling.

Though entering the field with high expectations, the Lady Blues didn’t lose their heads. Together they accomplished great things, that a lot of people didn’t see coming.

“We surprised other people, but not ourselves,” said Westling.

Playing out of their comfort zones

Today, the players and coach agree on what made them meet their own high expectations this year.

“Chemistry. The ladies are all committed to each other and committed to doing well,” said Collins.

The team chemistry off the field has shown on the field. The players are comfortable because they know what to expect from their teammates.

“All the girls get along awesome. They are just awesome people and we’ve had an awesome year. Chemistry has a lot to do with the team’s improvement,” said freshman forward Jessica Mainz.

The players make this chemistry happen, but one key ingredient is the coach.

“He is really laid back and it goes on to the team, we are pretty laid back, even if we are serious when we have to be. Tim portrays that soccer is supposed to be fun,” said Jenna Hatlestad, junior goalkeeper.

In three years, Collins has made a brand new program become one of the top teams of the conference.

“The players on the team would do anything for him. He’s an asset to the program and the players as well as to the university. He has a huge, but quiet, role in the chemistry of the team. He has put us in situations where we have had to get to know each other. He has gotten us out of our comfort zones and encouraged us to get to know each other. That have made a lot of difference,” said Westling.

Growing through their setbacks

With 15 games left to play, the team lost one of its key players. Junior defender Meagan Horvath injured her knee in the game against South Dakota on Sept. 10. She has been through surgery and is still working on recovering.

“Losing Horvath, who is one of the best players on the team, was tough, but she stuck around, being a great leader and everyone came together and filled-in,” said Westling.

Collins describes a change of mentality in the team during this season. The players have learned to accept bad days, and keep working on their path to reach better ones.

“To think that I’m going to do my best today, and I’m going to do my best tomorrow, and tomorrow’s best is better than today’s,” said Collins.

Signs of success

There have been many highlights this season, the strong opening week, beating Emporia State twice, outclassing Truman State, and finishing higher in the rankings than they were supposed to.

“Every day was great with the team these are girls who genuinely care about each other. Beating Truman at Truman, ending the winning streak they had going on, showed that things are really coming together, that was a huge accomplishment in only the third year of our program,” said Westling.

Collins calls ending Truman’s winning streak tremendous.

“I think our first win ever against Truman was one of our greatest games,” Collins said.

Also tremendous was how the freshmen came in and found their roles on the field, and that the young team managed to get 17 points out of the last eight games. This season that has many highlights competing for attention with an over all evolution of the team.

“I look at it as a total package, the performance over all. With Mainz’s game winner against Emporia, Jolene Silovsky’s play throughout the season, Hatlestad and the backs’ wonderful job in shutting down some of the hardest opponents, midfielder Amanda Geist who has no stats but is such a smart player and always does the right thing, as some of the highlights,” Collins said.

The statistics mirror the praise of the team’s efforts. 23 new records are set, 24, if counting the record in record setting.

“Setting records is exiting, but I can’t be satisfied with that,” Mainz said.

Statistics and records are not important for the Lady Blues; to try and win the next conference is, to go on to a championship. According to Collins, the only thing that matter in the end is wins and losses, and keeping the other team from scoring.

“We met all our objectives, to be number one in the conference in goals against average, to lead the conference in scoring,” he said.

Still, the statistics clearly show the development of the team, they show more points, shots, goals, assists, shutouts and wins are recorded than ever before.

“It is such a young program; I hope the next year’s team breaks the records we set this season,” said Westling.

Leading the MIAA, and finishing second, has given the team some hope, because they could have won even though they were expected to finish sixth. Tough competition has made the players better.

“It is nice to be up there, but we were not satisfied with how we finished the season. We are finishing ahead of a lot of great teams, but our mentality is that it is never good enough. We have so much talent and potential. I am proud of the team, proud of the players and proud of the program,” Westling said.

The Lady Blues will keep making sure that things go their way and work next year to be the best in the conference.

“There is no limit to how good we can be. The freshmen, who all stepped up hugely, are all going to be great next year. Next year is going to be really special to our team,” said Westling.

The Lady Blues have already exceeded all expectations, developed into a new team, they have built a chemistry that must last, learned from their setbacks and broken most records.

“We are going to be magic next year,” said Hatlestad.