Women’s Soccer Named As Favorite

Anthony Vega, Reporter

The Cougars finished last season with a perfect 7-0 record within the Conference, and an overall record of 15-4-2. The team received six out of eight possible first places votes in the preseason coaches poll. The two other first place votes were awarded to DeSales University, who won the postseason Mac Freedom Tournament last season.

This season the Cougars will be led by captains, senior Kylen Smith, junior Alexa Alchevsky, junior Alex Gallagher, and junior Emily Szeflinski. All four captains started in at least 20 games last season and all received some level of MAC Freedom honors. This season, the Cougars have the reigning conference, defensive player of the year junior Kristen Ritter, co-offensive player of the year Gallagher, and rookie of the year sophomore Kristen Murphy.

Murphy describes the loss to Wilkes as a motivator that will help the team grow this season.

“I think that loss carries over into this season as an example of how we need to come out and win the games that need to be won and not come out with an attitude that we should win or that were going to win. We should come out with an attitude like were going to take this game hard, and we are going to go out and play our best and deserve to win.”

After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, the Cougars found themselves in a penalty kick shootout with Wilkes, which they ultimately lost 5-3. However due to the team’s dominate regular season performance, they were still awarded an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.

“We know every team in our conference is out to get us. Each team wants to beat us, and I think we have a good understanding of that,” said Gallagher. “We will not take any game lightly, and we will regain our spot as the MAC Freedom Champs.”

The Cougars say their preseason favorite vote is another motivation.

“Being ranked number one means a lot for me and the team because it gives us that expectation and that drive that we have to meet that goal, we have to meet that expectation, we have to be number one, and that just gives us something to work for and something to be proud of going into the season,” said Murphy.

However the team was left out of the NCAA top 25 rankings, which is quite unusual.

“This is the first year in four years that we have not been ranked in the top 25, but our coach has had us work harder this past spring and preseason then ever before,” said Szeflinski. “This year we are coming out trying to prove that the MAC belongs to us and that we mean business. Our goal is to win one game at a time, and eventually we will run deep into the National Tournament.”

Another unusual fact about the 2016 team is that Smith is the only senior on the roster.  Smith started in every game during the 2015 season and earned first-team All-MAC Freedom honors and second team ECAC South Division III honors.

“Kylen is very talented and she is a very good role model, and she’s very experienced,” said Murphy.

Having just one senior means that many underclassmen have a lot of experience. In addition to Smith, the 2016 team consists of 13 juniors, eight sophomores, and an incoming class of nine freshmen.

“It doesn’t matter how old the players are, but what does matter is the impact they have on the team. A freshman could have the same impact for the team as a senior could. It all depends on your work rate, how you treat your teammates and your attitude,” said Ritter.

Chemistry is another big factor, and this team understands how important it is.

“Every team on this campus works hard, but what I believe separates us from the other sports is the fact that we are all in this for each other,” said Szeflinski. “There may be individual accomplishments along the way, but the overall goal is to win together. Every high, every low, we experience together. We are all sisters, we all sacrifice for each other, we are willing to go the distance for one another, we are all brought into this system. We are held to a higher standard by our coach.”

Having a common goal will also help bring the team closer.

“Everyone gets along great and everyone accepts their role. We all have the same mindset and all want to be national champs,” said Gallagher.

The women’s intentions are clear: Win well.

“We obviously want to win our conference and go as far as we can in the National Tournament, but my expectations are more about how hard we work every day at our practices and how we treat our teammates,” said Ritter.