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The Scarlet & Black

Hopes up for Women’s Soccer despite injuries

The women’s soccer team played their first game of the season on Tuesday against St. Olaf College, resulting in a 7-1 defeat.

“The outcome of the game against St. Olaf was rough,” Midfielder Lara Meyer ’11 said. “But we were able to take a lot from it. We see where we need to improve and what we did well.”

Opponent St. Olaf held the advantage of returning 10 of 11 starters from last season while Grinnell lost seven graduated seniors and many current players to various injuries. The team is using the loss as a teaching tool and looking ahead to the next game.

“Our coaching staff is looking at the game tape and determining where we need to focus training in the next two days as we prepare for the University of Dubuque,” head women’s soccer Coach Heather Benning said.

The team considers the first game a starting point from which to improve upon during the entire season.

“This is a new group,” Benning said. “We graduated seven starters. The current team is still establishing its personality…and my expectations for the squad are that we get stronger with each week of training.”

During the start of the season, players felt the void left by last year’s seniors—gone were the vivacious leaders of 2008, resulting in an unfamiliar calm that greeted the team. The missing players were especially apparent last week, when a squad of only 12 players tied a scrimmage 2-2 against more than 30 members of the Luther College team.

Since then, the returning players have been “filling up to take leadership positions and keeping the talk up,” Defender Cynthia Dominguez ’12 said. “The team is definitely still growing.”

Although the first game was a “tough opener,” said Benning, the team stays optimistic. With only two seniors, the team is captained by Meyer and Miki Nakamura ’10 and equipped with six first-year players this year.

“We have a lot of younger people who need to step up right away and fill in the voids that the seniors left,” Dominguez said, “but that’s not something we can’t overcome.”

Benning is excited about the solid group of first years.

“A handful of [first years] are already making a difference in game situations,” Benning said. “[Defenders] Kathryn Hardy ’13 and Nicole Sipfle ’13 each gave us 90 minutes in the opening game and [Midfielder] Rachel Weinstein ’13 entered along the front line immediately impacting our offense.”

Under the direction of Benning, whose coaching style reflects positivism and a strong work ethic according to her players, the team has high hopes. Some technical strengths of this year’s team include speed, a strong defense, controlled play and smart passes.

“My hope for the season is that we take pride in the details becoming a solid technical team,” Benning said. “If we can do that, it will open options for us tactically, allowing us to be successful against better opponents.”

Grinnell College women’s soccer team will play their second game of the season against the University of Dubuque at 1 p.m. on Saturday on their home field. Last year the women’s team played a close game against the University of Dubuque, winning the game 1-0.

“I am really excited about the upcoming game against Dubuque,” Goal keeper Laura McElroy ’11 said. “It will give us the chance to play good soccer and to improve on things from our opening match. We will also be able to continue building and working together as a team in order to get ready for our conference games.”

Dominguez is confident that the team will make a return to the Conference Tournament this year.

“Our team has always been one that has been focused on depth as far as one player coming in for another,” Dominguez said. “It’s consistently a strong team no matter who comes in.”

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