It’s a new season for the Vikings as they kick off spring preseason games.
A season ago, the Western women’s soccer team finished the regular season with a record of 16-0-4, with their only loss coming in the NCAA Division-II Tournament.
Five months removed from a brutal 1-0 loss to California State University, Stanislaus, the team returned to Robert S. Harrington Field for their spring preseason. This is a chance for the coaches to rotate through their players in order to determine who will crack the starting 11 come August. It also gives the younger players a greater opportunity to prove themselves as the seniors from this past season are no longer with the team.
On Tuesday, April 7, the Vikings took on Trinity Western University and came out on top 4-2. Catherine Miles scored the first two goals for the Vikings while Erin Russell and Sandy Hanses each added one.
Head coach Travis Connell liked what he saw Tuesday, as he knew scoring goals was one of the team’s main focus’ coming into this game.
“That’s a big deal for us because we have a fantastic defense, but we need to be able to score more goals. So we’ve been working on it the last two weeks,” he said. “Especially getting behind their back line and we did a lot of that today. I was really pleased to see that and it came from a lot from different people so that’s what coaches hope to see right there.”
In a game where the Vikings scored four goals, it’s hard to point out any glaring weaknesses, but Connell noticed that the team’s game management could use some work as Trinity Western had possession for much of the game. He also said they could improve on reading the game as well as overall defending.
“Next week, we’re working on defending before the game against University of Washington. We got a lot of new players in the back so we’ll keep working on that so it’s nice and tight,” he said.
While the action on the field Tuesday was exciting, it was hard to ignore what was happening in the stands, as well over 100 people attended and cheered on the Western squad. Among them was 78-year-old Ron Higginbotham, who has been supporting both the women’s and men’s teams with his wife Emily for 16 years.
Without fail, Higginbotham cheered for Western on Tuesday and would periodically wave a giant Viking flag and begin a chant the whole crowd would follow.
For Higginbotham, coming out to the preseason games is more about supporting the team then hoping for a win. Getting the crowd into the game and having a good time is why he keeps coming back. He has also formed lasting relationships with most of the girls on the team and continues to do so with each incoming class. He loves to be there for the girls, he invites them to team dinners and even brings in guest speakers to talk to the team.
Whether it was Connell cheering on Catherine Miles for her fourth goal in two games, or Higginbotham waving his Vikings flag and starting a “let’s go Vikings” chant, on Tuesday night, it was hard to ignore the talent and passion of this team. The Vikings look fully prepared to make another deep run in the 2015 season.