Senior co-captain Karli White had 10 goals and 28 total points in the 2017-2018 season. // Photo courtesy of WWU Athletics
Practices start in two weeks, and Western’s women’s soccer team is preparing mentally and physically to focus on their skills and come together as a team for the new campaign.
With senior Karli White and junior Annaliese Laurila returning as captains, head coach Travis Connell said the team is expecting another great year.
“We have a real loaded roster, a lot of quality players. I expect us to be stronger than ever,” Connell said.
The Vikings captured the national championship during the 2016-17 season and followed up with an 18-2-0 record last season. They finished second to Concordia in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular season but took revenge on the Cavaliers by eliminating them in the conference tournament championship game.
Western’s season was ended in the NCAA II West Regional Final, falling 2-0 to the University of California San Diego. Lost to graduation is midfielder Emily Webster and defender Sierra Shugarts, who was selected as the 2016 Player of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
“I have been fortunate to have some of the greatest teammates like Sierra and Emily,” senior defender Taylor Hallquist said. “Both have been really good inspiring players, and I just want to fill those shoes this year.”
Connell said the team is constantly evolving each time they lose and add players.
“[It] gives an opportunity for younger players to step forward and play more and make their impact on the season,” Connell said. “We expect that to happen this year as well.”
Team co-captain Annaliese Laurila, a junior, said she is excited to meet the freshmen joining the team.
“It’s always exciting to see freshmen come in and see what they’re going to bring to the team,” Laurila said. “You don’t know until they get here and see what they have to offer and how they’re going to improve the dynamics and make us a better team.”
The team begins the season on the road with matches at Point Loma in San Diego on Aug. 30 and UC San Diego on Sept. 1.
“It’s great to go on the road early and test yourselves against one of the top teams in the country,” Connell said. “We expect to be competitive in every game that we play but we know that we will have to be our best to beat a team like UC San Diego on the road.”
Laurila said that the team is constantly looking for how they can improve and overcome obstacles as a team. They need to mentally separate how they played in the past from how they will play in the present, Laurila said.
“We won before but have to remember that this is a completely different season and a different year,” Laurila said. “The teams are different, but I know we can do it.”
Connell said one player to watch out for this season is senior Gabriela Pelogi. Pelogi’s 15 goals and 36 total points led the conference in scoring in 2017. Pelogi is 32 points shy of tying the GNAC’s career scoring record of 122 points held by Sarah Martinez of Seattle Pacific University. Heading into her final season, Pelogi’s 90 career points places her 10th in the conference all-time record book for scoring.
The team’s first home game will be against Holy Names University on Sept. 6 at Robert S. Harrington Field.
“We had a great spring and definitely improved,” Connell said. “Players stepped into new roles and flourished, so we are excited for the possibilities for this fall.”