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Harvey Wilhelm
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Women’s soccer pursues Midwest Conference tournament spot

Midfielder Lauren Hurley 18 fights hard fo rthe ball during a match over fall break. Photo contributed.

By Candace Mettle

Over fall break, the women’s soccer team improved their overall record with a streak of four wins against a variety of Midwestern teams. These achievements come before the team will play one more match to determine if they will compete in the Midwest Conference tournament in two weeks. However, after a slow start to the season, the team sees the recent wins as testaments to the hard work that they underwent to make this year count.

Forward Shaina Zarkin-Scott ’18 believes that what sets apart this year from previous ones is that the team as a whole has grown more confident in their playing. On and off the field, the team culture has focused on staying positive in light of difficulties.

“We’ve learned how each other’s instincts are, so you can kind of predict what they’re going to do, which makes the team play better if you know what your teammates are going to do,” Zarkin-Scott said.

In addition, the team has focused heavily on conditioning in both the pre and regular seasons.

“We’ve gotten in really good shape. If nothing else, we can outrun the other team, and that’s because everyone does their best all the time, so it’s definitely a team effort,” Zarkin-Scott said. “At the end of practice, you see how invested everyone is. We’re all dying, but everyone is doing the best they can and everyone is supporting each other.”

Head Coach Kirsten Koester has also credits the Pioneers’ success to their heartfelt dedication to the sport. The team victoriously went up against many strong teams such as St. Norbert and Ripon. Respectively, the Pioneers women’s team won 2-1 and 3-2 over the fall break weekend.

“The [team members] are highly disciplined and never make excuses for themselves, and I think that this year it’s such a strong part of our identity,” Koester said. “Every single game leading up to those four have been crucial, and it’s about how we’ve responded to the losses and even some of the wins and recognizing that even in a 3-1 victory, there are things that we need to improve. It’s that drive to not be just satisfied with our individual performance that has continued us to make us stronger and grow from game to game.”

Along with Zarkin-Scott, Koester remarks that the seniors have been leaders in cultivating the team dynamic. Koester also believes that getting to play in the Midwest Conference would set precedents for the younger players as well as pay tribute to Pioneer women’s soccer.

“I think that this program is expected to be in the tournament, and the players recognize that, but I think that they take pride in that because of the history of success. We’re so hungry this year after last year to really prove that we’re one of the top teams,” Koester said.

Midfielder Lauren Hurley  18 fights hard fo rthe ball during a match over fall break. Photo contributed.
Midfielder Lauren Hurley
18 fights hard for the ball during a match over fall break. Photo contributed.

When speaking further on the importance of being in the Midwest Conference tournament, Zarkin-Scott alluded to the other Pioneer teams that have done well this fall season.

“It’s really cool to have so much representation. The tennis team did really well and volleyball is doing really well and the men’s soccer team is probably going to make the tournament. A lot of the schools in the [Midwest] conference are known for sports, and Grinnell is known as a good sports school. … It’s obviously a great academic school, but nerds can do sports too!”

First-year Valencia Alvarez ’20 has responded well to the high standards of the team. Playing usually as a forward, her time as a division three student athlete has proven to be a great experience.

“I just wanted to make any difference on the team in any way that I could on the field scoring goals, defending … just kind of really show myself to the team and the whole conference in general,” Alvarez said.

Indeed, she has. In the match against Ripon, Alvarez made the first goal, setting the tone for the game.

Alvarez sees great significance in entering the conference tournament for graduating seniors.

“It doesn’t mean as much to me as it does to the seniors, because they have been here for four years, and it’s more for them,” Alvarez said. “But honestly, I came into this season thinking that it’s completely possible — which it is — but it would mean that we would accomplish, as a whole team, the goals we had prepared in the beginning of the season to put ourselves out there as a team not to look down upon.”

The women’s team will battle Monmouth College. on Oct. 29 to see if they will make it to the Midwest conference tournament.

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