UW Women’s Soccer Enjoying A Fresh Start
Five games into the 2014 season, the University of Washington women’s soccer team is already reaping rewards of a productive offseason. With an emphasis on unselfish play and hard work on both sides of the ball, the team is relying on chemistry within its talented roster to recover from a frustrating 2013 season that saw the squad finish eighth in the Pac-12 and with a losing record overall.
“Last year, we had a really, really talented team and I think we made too many assumptions about ourselves coming into a game and just performing without the work being put it,” head coach Lesle Gallimore said. “I don’t mean physical work, I mean work to make us more of a team.
“The coachability piece, the buy-in piece, the team piece, are always more important than the talent piece,” she added.
The Huskies aren’t any less talented in 2014 and have a good mix of old and new, with ten players returning who played in 14 or more games in 2013, and 12 new faces, including freshmen, transfers and players coming off redshirt seasons. Those new players have fit in seamlessly.
“We’ve done a lot of work to make sure that new people feel welcome,” senior midfielder Kate Bennett said. “Our team is unique in that we don’t really have a hierarchy. I hope we do a really good job of making sure that the freshman feel like they have a voice.”
The coaching staff has seen that effort and gives credit to veterans like Bennett for creating a welcoming atmosphere that helps the new players step right in and contribute.
Among the new faces to make an immediate impact is Kimberly Keever, a freshman who is one of the leading offensive players on the team. Fellow freshman Shannon Simon, Dominique Bond-Flasza and Rachel Wheeler have all seen significant playing time, while 2013 redshirts Stine Schoening and Sami Page have been stalwarts on the back line.
“I think there are a lot of veteran players on our team looking at our new players saying, ‘Wow these are great kids, they’re great players, they’re so bought in,’” Gallimore said. “What they don’t realize is that they are great players and they are so bought in because of how they were made to feel when they got here by the veteran players.”
The Huskies have started 4-1-0. With four wins thus far, UW is only three wins from tying the win total from all of last year. Forwards Jaclyn Softli and Becca Schoales have led the offense, with contributions from midfielders Amanda Perez and Bennett and attacking defender Havana McElvaine. The team is scoring almost two goals per game in 2014 compared to under one goal per game last year. According to Bennett, the success on the field is an extension of the chemistry off of it.
“People are playing really unselfishly,” she said. “I think a lot of people are making runs off the ball and working really hard on both sides of the ball. People have really realized that you’ve got to do the work, maybe even the things that go unnoticed, but people are taking the steps to do those things.”
That hard work is giving Husky fans high hopes for the 2014 season but the team is focused on each individual game and keeping the strong team chemistry alive.
“Yes, we want to do really well and we want to make the tournament, but we’re not looking at it that way,” Bennett said. “We’re looking at it as each individual game and not trying to look past each opponent.”
The Huskies’ only loss came at the hands of the No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers in the opener of the Husky Nike Invitational. UW has beaten Kentucky, LaSalle, Pittsburgh and Dartmouth during a grueling non-conference schedule.
The slate only gets tougher as UW heads to Portland to compete in the Nike Portland Invitational Sept. 12-14. The Huskies open the tournament against San Diego State and finish with Miami as they look to continue their hot start. Even so, Gallimore wants her team to focus on the pillars that have set this team on a better course.
“How it all ends up at the end of the season is not something I really think about,” she said. “We’re just everyday trying to toe the line that we’ve set for this group, which is to be consistent, to be determined, to be caring about each other, and to be bought in to our philosophy of how things need to be done.”
Regardless of the results of this promising young season, that philosophy lends itself to success in other ways by accomplishing the goals that Gallimore and her team have set in place.
“The great news for us is that it’s not at all result based. It’s a feeling that you get about a group of people,” Gallimore said. “Any time you are a part a great team or a great organization, that’s the most important part at the end of the day; you’re enjoying being around the people, you’re enjoying the work that you’re putting in, you’re enjoying the parts that are difficult. And when you don’t get a good result, you’re still happy that you’re doing it with the people you’re doing it with.”