Ichabods soccer carries work ethic from summer into season

Anzhelika Tolstikhina, [email protected], is a sophomore nursing major.

At 6 a.m. Monday, Aug. 11, Washburn’s women’s soccer team met in the locker room of Petro to begin the preparation for the 12th season in the program’s history. Although the sun had not risen yet, all of the athletes, the assistants and head coach Tim Collins were ready to dive into the practice routine before the girls kick off at scrimmage Aug. 26, and later, at the first game Sept. 5 against Minnesota State University.

Everyone passed the fitness test with no complications, proving the dedication and maturity all players maintained during a summer of conditioning on their own. The first day back at full practice was a welcome sight for the now stronger and confident squad looking forward to a bright season ahead of them.

The 2014 signing class has brought a talented group of 12 freshmen who will suit up for the Blues this fall, including Presley Wiggins, who has moved from San Diego to play for Washburn.

“Becoming a part of the Ichabod soccer team, I feel welcomed and confident that I will soon enough consider this team my family,” said Sara Taylor, a freshman fielder. “It is a good atmosphere to be in and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Emma Stevens, a former Nebraska Cornhusker standout, joined as an assistant coach at the beginning of summer. Stevens once scored a goal across the field as a goalkeeper. She now primarily works with Lady Blues goalkeepers.

Besides the arrival of such a number of new players, the team still maintains a core group of 14 returning players, including three seniors which are the goalkeeper Tori Fuglister, center defender Jenna Cunningham and midfielder Valerie Harms.

“We have a lot of really good players that are eager to get going and get the season started,” said Stevens.

“I really enjoy having Tim Collins as my coach because he will always push us if necessary, but he also knows each player on the individual level, gives us the time we need to grow as a player, and cares about each one of us,” said Sara Specht, a returning mid-fielder.

Collins was also willing to discuss his coaching strategies and objectives that have led him to become such an esteemed leader.

Collins believes that the key to becoming a successful team lies in his high expectations of the team’s performance and one-on-one meetings, such as pulling players to the side and commending their hard work. Collins has even formed a friendly competition that is called “favorite player,” the essence of which is for every player to exert her best effort in order to be called Collins’ “favorite.”

“Short-term goals are helpful to reach long-term ones,” Collins said.

Last year, the Lady Blues finished fourth place in conference play, making it to the semi-finals. This year, however, Collins has high expectations for his athletes to step up to a new level and accomplish even more than in the past. Collins believes in “5-goals strategy.” First, keeping up hard training. Second, making smart choices. Third, having academic success. Fourth, making good social media choices. Fifth, recover when necessary.

The Lady Blues’ main strength is in their cohesion. Every one of them is eager to make sacrifices and endure the pain of a hard work in order to win.

“It was really hard for me to work out every day over the summer because I would rather sleep,” said Cunningham. “But I also knew that if I put those hours in, the reward will be so much greater. You have to look at the big picture. We became a better team because each one of us has put in the hours of effort. I passed the fitness test because I trained. All players have the mentality that each individual is capable to be a leader as long as they work hard. Later, therefore, such leadership of each athlete is beneficial in terms of attacking, because no focus falls on a particular person.”

During the semester the schedule consists of three practices a week and a game every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, with Mondays off.

“We definitely have confidence in ourselves, which, I think, is a huge aspect of winning,” said Taylor.

All the strengths in combination with the support from Washburn students give a strong prediction that nothing will stop the Lady Blues soccer squad on the way to winning.

“I love Washburn and I believe in the direction it’s going,” Collins said. “I’ve been here for 12 years and I don’t want to go anywhere else. But we have to win!”