Western’s women’s soccer team will begin its 2016 regular season on the road on September 1 during a matchup against Sonoma State.
The schedule was released on June 19 and features three exhibition matches before the 18-match regular season kicks off.
The team is coming off of their most successful season in program history after finishing 21-2-1 and advancing to the semifinals of the Division II NCAA tournament held in Pensacola, Florida.
“It was unbelievable, everything felt like it went our way,” junior midfielder Emily Webster said. “Once we won and were able to go on to the Final Four it all just kind of felt like a dream.”
The run came to an end when the Vikings fell to the two-time defending champion Grand Valley State Lakers who would go on to win their third straight championship.
Western looks to win their fifth consecutive Great Northwest Athletic Conference title in 2016 and contend for their first NCAA championship.
Webster, who was voted first team all-GNAC last season, said the spring season was integral for defining roles and training for the fall.
“It was a really good, building spring season. We played a bunch of really strong Division I schools and a lot of people played some new positions,” Webster said. “It definitely got us ready for the fall season. Just getting more playing time and getting more people on the field that deserve minutes.”
While the team did not win many games in the spring, they made some key takeaways, junior center back Sierra Shugarts said.
“We have to be creative and work up top with each other and we have to finish those last goals that separate us from a national championship team,” Shugarts said.
Webster said the team did a good job of staying composed and keeping the ball moving.
“We have to be creative and work up top with each other and we have to finish those last goals that separate us from a national championship team.”
Head coach Travis Connell emphasized that they need to do a better job of recognizing when to attack the opponent’s third of the field.
Shugarts said, defensively, the key will be to spread the field for the goalkeeper and look to switch the field when the opportunity arises.
“[Connell] wants us to play out of the back more with our keeper so he wants us to keep more possession in our side of the half and once we tire the other team out we can work our way up,” Shugarts said.
The Vikings will lose nine seniors from last year’s team, including goalkeeper Ashley Haden who led a defense that totaled 10 shutouts. Haden ended her career with the third most shutouts of any Western goalkeeper.
“Ashley Haden was a huge part in our defense. I think we’ll be fine but it’ll definitely be something we adjust our game [around].” Shugarts said.
The Vikings defense was solid last year, allowing 0.58 goals per game.
Shugarts said redshirt junior Ashley Homer is expected to take over goalkeeping duties for the Vikings. Homer transferred from College of Saint Rose after allowing just 0.38 goals per game and recording 16 shutouts in 2014.
Returning players for the Vikings include senior forward Elise Aylward who was limited to playing 17 games last season when she broke her hand.
Sophomore forward Gabriela Pelogi will also return for the Viking offense after she totaled 10 goals and 5 assists and was selected to the all-tournament team in the NCAA Final Four.
With the spring season finished, the women have begun individual workouts to prepare for their first exhibition match will played at home on Wednesday, August 17 against Fraser Valley.
The Vikings won all 12 of their home games last season and will look to keep the streak alive in their Sunay, September 4 regular season home-opener against San Francisco’s Academy of Art.