The Western Washington University women’s soccer team defeated Seattle University in a closely-contested match on Friday, providing an initial forecast as to what the rest of the season may have in store for the Vikings women footballers.
With the sun casting its golden glow on Harrington Field, the early evening weather could not have been better for a matchup that the PA announcer described as “a battle between two powerhouses.”
Last season, the Vikings claimed the national Division II championship title while the Division I Seattle U Redhawks made it to the WAC semifinals. This game was a display of skillful athleticism on both sides.
Near the 27th minute, Vikings senior midfielder Payton Neal scored the only goal of the game, a swift shot past the keeper from the left side of the goal. She connected with a nifty pass from sophomore midfielder Morgan Manalili, who was the key facilitator for most of Western’s scoring attempts, to bounce it into the back of the net.
“My strength is being there for the team [and] picking up on the little pieces that my team needs me to,” Neal said.
For most of the first half, the Vikings maintained a steady possession of the ball, keeping consistent control on offense. With quick and precise passes, the Vikings played speedy and scrappy, jumping the passing lanes and sprinting for loose balls.
The Redhawks gained momentum on offense in the mid-to-late second half. Redhawks junior midfielder Jourdyn Curran made efficient and accurate passes, setting up plays that were difficult to defend.
“[Seattle U] had really good midfielders that were able to slip in behind. They were really talented at being able to connect and stay composed on and off the ball,” Neal said.
Still, Western kept defensive composure and senior goalkeeper Abigail Trengove blocked multiple shots, both from close and afar. Their defense is what won the game, being able to make an early 1-0 lead on the Redhawks hold up until the final whistle.
“Our goalkeeping group is phenomenal. That’s a huge strength of our team,” said Head Coach Travis Connell.
Exhibition games such as this one — against teams from higher divisions — are key in testing the limits of what a team is capable of.
“We go into these games thinking of them as a challenge because we’re playing against Division I teams,” senior defender Kascia Muscutt said. “Being able to play against competitive teams helps us figure out new ways to play and work together. It sets us up for success when we go back into the regular league and into the championship season.”
This game showcased what strengths the Vikings have as they approach the regular season as well as revealing the areas that need improvement. There is some pressure that comes with following up a national title campaign.
“Any time you have a lot of success the year before, then sometimes it can be hard to find that hunger and that passion and desire the next year, so that is certainly something that is in the front of our minds,” Connell said.
The team is strong with lots of depth and chemistry. With about four months left before the regular season, the team is continuing to work hard to improve where they can and prepare for success.
“We’ve been talking so much about heart and working together, and we did that. Everyone agrees that’s why we had so much success in the fall, so we’re hoping to keep that going into next fall,” Muscutt said.
The Vikings will host another friendly on May 13 against Peninsula College. The match will be played at Harrington Field, starting at 4 p.m.
Genesi Funston is a sports reporter for The Front. She is working towards a degree in public relations journalism. In her free, time she loves to run, read, play basketball and listen to rap music. You can reach her at email@example.com.