For most students, Thanksgiving break means food and relaxation.
For Western’s women’s soccer team however, it means training and staying healthy as the team makes its way to Pensacola, Florida for the NCAA Division II Women’s Soccer Tournament Final Four.
After a 3-1 win over Dallas Baptist University on Saturday, Nov. 21, the Vikings ranked second nationally, secured its spot in the Final Four.
Western will face Grand Valley State University on Thursday, Dec. 3. Grand Valley State is ranked first, and will be making its seventh appearance in a row at the Final Four tournament, according to Western Athletics.
This will be the Vikings’ second time seeing the Final Four. Last year the team made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament after a final record of 16-1-4, according to Western Athletics.
Western last played in this round of the tournament in 2013, but fell short against University of West Florida. Now, with a strong team and a number of key returners, the team is headed back to the Final Four.
Junior forward and midfielder Sandy Hanses said in an email the team has stepped up its fitness during practice and she has been spending time working to stay focused during break.
“[The team is] really just making sure we are taking care of our bodies and staying healthy,” Hanses said.
The constant motivation and the hard work during practice are just a few of the reasons Hanses believes her team made it this far, she said.
“We have a really strong roster this year, with amazing returning players and incoming freshmen,” Hanses said. “With great players, an amazing coaching staff and the drive this team has, we have been successful.”
The desire to push through has been a key component for the team this season, Hanses said.
“The whole team has wanted this more than anything since the start of the season and we have constantly been motivating each other and working hard in practice each day in order to make it to this point,” Hanses said.
Senior midfielder Delanee Nilles said in an email the team set the tone early in the season and also agreed with Hanes that making it this far has been a goal since the beginning.
“We sat down as a team and set goals and how we were going to achieve them. We hold each other to a high standard and expect everyone to come ready to every practice and play hard,” Nilles said.
Western’s undefeated record has helped the team work its way to the top of the nation’s standings. The Vikings first dominated the Sweet 16 when they beat Azusa Pacific University 1-0 and then continued its winning streak when they played Dallas Baptist in the Elite Eight, according to Western’s Weekly Report.
The stats came to nine shutouts by senior goalkeeper Ashley Haden and 13 from the team. Leading scorer, senior captain and forward and midfielder Catherine Miles has a recorded 13 goals and 30 overall points this season, which totals her career goals to 43, according to the report.
Senior Rob Rosenberg, has been following Vikings women’s soccer since his freshman year and said the team’s chemistry has always been strong, but this year it’s only gotten better.
“This team seems pretty tight knit. I can tell that the girls have a lot of love for each other. Something about this team feels like they are even closer than before,” Rosenberg said.
If Western can pull out a win on Thursday, the team will make it to the championship where it will face either Columbus State or Bridgeport on Saturday, Dec. 5.