The Western Washington University women's soccer team improved its win streak to six games in a row (10-1-3) after its 3-0 victory against Montana State University Billings on Saturday, Oct. 15. This match was the last of four consecutive games played on the road.
With an undefeated record in conference play (9-0-1), the Vikings are first in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) standings. The team is also ranked seventh in Division II NCAA organizations across the nation.
With their recent win against Montana State University Billings, the Vikings secured their ninth shutout of the season. The team's defensive unit has yet to let up more than two goals in a game.
“We devote a huge chunk of time in practice to work on our defensive movements and communication,” said Claire Henninger, team captain and goalkeeper. “This repetition, along with our commitment to being active problem-solvers and honest communicators, allows us to have some of the success we've had in the back.”
This season, the Vikings’ roster has been bolstered by the addition of freshmen prospects including defender Asia Hardin, who has played every minute of the season.
Head coach Travis Connell has been leading the women's soccer team at Western for 20 years and said this is the first time he recalls a field player not missing a minute throughout the regular season.
“There’s a lot of young players that are playing a lot of minutes and contributing right away as freshman. It's been a few years since we’ve had a team like that,” Connell said. “When [freshmen] come in, it’s a clean slate and that kind of fresh perspective can be really good for the team's chemistry.”
On the attack, junior striker Estera Levinte has consistently been finding the back of the net, scoring three goals in the past two games. Levinte’s performance has been recognized league-wide, winning her third career GNAC player of the week award for games played Oct. 10-16.
Freshmen forwards Morgan Manalili and Claire Potter have also contributed valuable minutes this season, sitting in the top three for team point totals behind Levinte.
“Our depth has been something that has separated us from other teams in our conference,” Connell said. “We’ve really benefited from players being able to step up into bigger roles when there's injuries or multiple games.”
The final four games of the season will be played at Harrington Field, giving the Vikings more than two weeks at home before their first postseason game on Nov. 3 in Nampa, Idaho.
Connell said he considers this stretch of home games to be a big advantage because it allows the team to have a steady schedule where they can focus on film study and practice.
“Having a competitive spirit in practices gets us ready and prepared to play exactly the same when game time comes,” Potter said. “[Competition] also helps us build chemistry when we are all playing as hard and as fast as we can together.”
On Thursday, Oct. 20, the Vikings were set to take on the second-ranked Northwest Nazarene University Nighthawks. The game has been rescheduled to Saturday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. The last time these teams met on Sept. 24, their match resulted in a 0-0 draw.
Western needs to tie or win in order to maintain their first place spot in the GNAC standings.