Coming off a season in which they made it to the NEWMAC Championship, the Springfield College women’s soccer team looked poised to build off of that and carry the momentum into the next season.
But there was going to be a noticeable change at the top.
Kristin Cannon was hired as the new head coach, replacing John Gibson, who was at the helm for the previous 22 years. Coming into the new season, Cannon was keenly aware of last year’s heroics, and she sensed this year’s team had great potential to be even better.
But first, Cannon had to see what she had.
“We had 37 players that came in for preseason,” Cannon said. “[My first job] was to start building relationships…and then figure out what they bring to the field.”
Once the season started, the Pride realized that making it back to the postseason was not going to be an easy task. They dropped two out of three games, getting outscored 11-3.
Cannon knew though, through hard work and more practice, and taking it “day-by-day,” that winning would follow.
“They love competition [and] they thrive on it,” Cannon said. “As a coaching staff we tried to build that in every session that we do.”
And success has definitely come.
Over the next nine games the Pride flipped the script and went 6-2-1, outsourcing their opponents 16-5, and improving their record to 7-4-1.
As the team got used to a new head coach, and chemistry started to build, the Pride’s offense started to flourish and the defense tightened up.
“We got more comfortable with each other,” first-year Kaitlyn Suller said. “We were able to form connections and [started to] move the ball much better.”
The winning has come from an abundance of contributors.
The Pride have felt the veteran presence from graduate students Kaleigh Dale and Vissi Rizos, who have 11 and seven points, respectively, on the season.
Additionally, the team has received beneficiaries from junior Jen Walker and the aforementioned Suller, who have 19 points combined.
Even with the improving offense, the biggest storyline has been the defense the Pride have boasted throughout the latter half of the season.
Between the elite defenders, led by junior Gabby Scott and graduate student Heather Jennato, and the goalkeeping tandem of Taryn Ryan and A. Harper, the Pride have kept their opponents at bay, allowing two goals or less in nine straight games.
With that fierce defense comes a lot of offensive opportunities, and to make a deep postseason run, Cannon knows they will have to improve on the offensive end.
“We have to be a bit more clinical around the net…we have to capitalize on our chances.”
The Pride finish up with three conference opponents: Wheaton and Clark, both who are right behind the Pride in the standings, and Emerson, who they hope to overtake for second place.
“We want to be a premier team in the NEWMAC,” Cannon said. “We know every conference opponent is hard… we have to go show up everyday.”
Photo Courtesy of Gillian Dube