En route to another Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament appearance, the Western women’s soccer team is ready to enter the postseason and defend its national championship title.
The Vikings had remained undefeated for 39 consecutive games until their 2-0 loss against Concordia on Oct. 28. Despite their loss at home, the team remains undefeated in away games.
Having such a successful 2016 season, the Vikings are feeling the pressure this postseason.
Senior midfielder Emily Webster is eager to lead her team into the playoffs this season as team captain and is ready to take on whatever challenge comes their way.
“This year we have an even bigger target on our backs so we know we have to bring our A-game to every match and really show our opponents what we’re made of,” Webster said.
If you ask the team, the pressure of winning just makes them work harder.
“Every team we play comes with a really good game plan and it just tests our ability to break them down and show them we’re a multi-dimensional team and we have different ways of being successful,” Webster said.
Although it’s mentally tough when the expectations are so high, she said it’s important to block out the past and focus on the current season.
In 2016, Webster was named GNAC Defensive Player of the Year and scored the game-winning goal in the NCAA II National Championship game.
Webster also said being team captain this season has changed her mindset on thinking about the team as a whole. She’s been working on lifting up her teammates especially when games aren’t going their way.
During their match this season against Seattle Pacific University, the two teams were tied until the 80th minute. The Vikings are accustomed to holding a lead and being able to maintain it so spirits were low.
Webster said she and the team worked to keep everyone positive and on the same page in order to win the game.
With 10 minutes left, junior forward and midfielder Karli White scored a goal and the Vikings went on to win the match against Seattle Pacific.
“I think the biggest thing is knowing we’ll find a way to get the job done whether it’s in the first five minutes or the last five minutes,” Webster said.
Sophomore midfielder Jordyn Bartelson also recognizes the pressure of winning. She said she thinks it’s important to be in the present and not think about last season to help ease the pressure of winning and to focus on the task at hand.
In the 2016 season, Bartelson played in all 25 games and totaled four goals with one assist.
She said last year’s team had a lot of seniors who had a big impact on their games. While this year’s team may be younger, Bartelson still believes this team is capable of winning it all.
“I think our team is very determined, works hard, knows what’s expected of us and we all want to win for each other,” she said.
Senior goalkeeper Ashley Homer also believes the team can go all the way again.
“We have the heart, we have the talent,” she said. “It’s all there. We just have to show up on game day.”
Last season, Homer was named GNAC Newcomer of the Year and recorded a 23-0-1 record as goalkeeper.
Homer said the Vikings are a closeknit team on and off the field.
“Day in, day out we’re always together. We live together, we hang out together. I feel like we’re always there for each other,” she said. “On the field we know we’re playing with our family, so it’s just a great environment to be in.”
Last year was a record-setting season for the Vikings. In 2016, the team won the NCAA Division II Championship with an undefeated 24-0-1 record and won their fifth consecutive GNAC regular-season championship.
Webster said she would love to relive the feeling of winning the 2016 national championship.
“It was just the most unbelievable experience I’ve ever had last year when we won,” she said. “Having the opportunity to do that again would be incredible.”
This is Webster’s last year playing collegiate soccer and, while she hopes she can win another national championship title, she’s just grateful for the experience.
“When it comes down to it, I’m just super thankful for the whole season no matter how it ends,” Webster said.
The team’s first playoff game is on Thursday, Nov. 2 in Portland, Oregon, against long-time rival Seattle Pacific University.
The Vikings may be feeling the pressure this postseason, but that won’t distract them from achieving their goal of repeating as national champions