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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Women Score their Way to MWC Bid Against Ripon

By Joe Wlos

For the twenty-first time in twenty-four years, Grinnell’s women’s soccer team will be competing in the Midwest Conference Tournament, facing Lake Forest College on Friday in the first round. Although head coach Heather Benning ’96 said that making the postseason was “an expectation,” the Pioneers were close to elimination earlier in the week.
“Last Saturday, we were in first place when we beat Lawrence. Then we dropped a close game to St. Norbert 4-3, and that dropped us to second place,” Benning said. “Then we went on the road to Monmouth. They were playing to get in the tournament for the first time in seven years. It basically came down to they wanted it more. Then we had our backs against the wall. We had to win against Ripon.”
The Pioneers went on to win that matchup by three goals, securing the fourth seed in the tournament. Even though the team is facing first seed Lake Forest College, they like their chances.
“I feel very confident about the draw we got. We go in as the fourth seed, but I feel like our team is really peaking at the right time,” Coach Benning said.
At the beginning of the semester, Grinnell lost by only one goal to Lake Forest. It was early in the season, before the Pioneer offense had gained momentum.
“Going to Lake Forest the first time, we hadn’t even scored yet,” co-captain Kathryn Hardy ’13 said.
The team has made many improvements since then.

Hannah Safter ’14 protects the ball this week in practice as the Pioneers prepare for the MWC tournament. Grinnell qualified by beating Ripon College 3-0 on Sunday, October 28. Photo by Connie Lee.

“We look very different than we did two months ago,” Coach Benning said. “They look very different than they did two months ago. I think that we match up very well.”
“I think during that first game we had just changed our formation, so I think that we are better adjusted to that, and now we’ve made a focus of playing simple one-two touch soccer,” Morgan Sullivan ’15 said.
This offense-oriented formation has been a central part of Grinnell’s strategy. It guarantees strong numbers on the scoreboard, while ensuring that every member of the team has a chance to make a play.
“If you look at the stats, a lot of the teams in the tournament have one or two players who have scored over ten goals each, with two players maybe combining for ninety percent of their team’s goals,” Coach Benson said. “If you look at our stats, our leading scorers only have five or six goals in the season, but we have eighteen or nineteen players with a goal or an assist. That really speaks more to our style of play. We try to not have all of the things go through one person, and we try to have everyone involved in the attack.”
This strategy has increased the women’s level of teamwork.
“The cohesion on the field has become more apparent, more visible, and more productive,” co-captain Kathryn Vincent ’13 said.
First-year Eva Smith agreed. Even though the last few games have been difficult, she believes that the team’s camaraderie has kept it “energized.”
“At the beginning of the year, we weren’t working together as a team. Since then, we’ve learned how to play better together,” Smith said.
The core of the team plays in the middle positions. The three fourth-year players—Hardy, Vincent, and Nicole Sipfle—work together to achieve Coach Benson’s goal of keeping “strength at the middle of the field.” Last year, Sipfle was an All-Conference player.
At 11 a.m. on Friday, that core will be tested, as the team plays Lake Forest in the semifinals and attempts to earn a ticket to the final game of the Midwest Conference Tournament, with a berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line.

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