By MELISSA TORRE
The Women’s soccer team is preparing to take on conference rival Nova Southeastern this Saturday, Sept. 17, in their season home opener.
The Spartans got off to a bit of a rough start this season after losing their first three games on the road. However, the team did manage to pick up their first win of the season last weekend during their road trip against the University of North Alabama with a final score of 2-1. This improved their overall record to 1-3.
“In the last couple of weeks we have improved as a team, and with the win today against North Alabama, we were able to prove that our hard work is indeed paying off,” said sophomore defenseman Alison Robinson.
The team welcomed 11 new players this season, including two transfers— sophomore forward Robyn-Anne Whittaker from Troy University and junior forward Haley Pigott from Jacksonville University. According to assistant coach Brittany Spence, having an incoming class of that size does present a bit of a challenge initially, but the team’s preseason gave the Spartans a chance to come together as a whole two weeks prior to classes starting.
During their practices, the team works on a number of minor details that play a big role in improving their overall game. Some of these areas include working on the team’s formation as well as shooting.
“We typically like to focus on small sided drills,” Spence said. “It makes the speed of play faster and it challenges the girls to think quicker, we like to work on a smaller scale because you are comfortable playing in tighter spaces when you open up it makes things easier.”
Moving forward in the season, some key players to keep an eye on include sophomores Robinson and Nastasia Asgedom, and junior Miranda Gonzalez. All of these players made over 20 appearances for the Spartans last season. As far as new players go, the coaching staff has high expectations for them all.
“Everyone on the team serves as a key player. Whether on or off the field everyone has an impact,” Asgedom said.
The team’s upcoming game against conference rival Nova Southeastern is an important game because not only is it the home opener, but Nova Southeastern is in the same conference as UT, so picking up an early win against them will be helpful later in the season during the playoff push.
“The Nova game is important not only because it is our first game, but Nova is also a very strong team, along with every other team in our conference.” Spence said.“I think the Nova game will be more exciting than anything because they were our first conference game last year.”
As far as the team’s overall goals for this season, they aim to focus on taking it one game at a time, but according to Spence, every season has a sequence. Preseason prepares the team for non-conference games, non-conference games prepare for conference games, conference games prepare for the conference tournament, and all preparation leads to the NCAA tournament.
“This season our goals are to finish first in our conference, to then win the conference tournament, and to make NCAAs,” Robinson said. “If we play with heart, will, and fight, we can be proud of where we are at the end of our season this year.”
Melissa Torre can be reached at Melissa.Torre@spartans.ut.edu