Women’s soccer kicks off season with a younger team


Evan Hein

The Grinnell women’s soccer team is predominantly comprised of first- and second-year players, but some of the upperclassmen players plan to “keep team culture and team spirit alive.”

Eleanor Corbin, Staff Writer

Spectators of a Grinnell women’s soccer practice may notice a sparkly, red, wooden rod as it is passed from one player to another. This bar, affectionately named “raise the bar” by the team captains, is given to players who have encouraged the rest of the team to work harder.

After the team lost 10 graduating players last spring, and five upperclassmen players decided not to return to play this season, the captains said they want to help underclassmen fill those gaps by redefining team culture and work ethic.

Jill Paladino `23, Antarah Chopra `23 and Jane March `24 have stepped up to fill the void in leadership, serving as this year’s captains. They hope to adjust the areas in need of improvement that they noted during last year’s season.

“I think we’re all trying to figure out how to make this team and the environment something that we all want and something we can all enjoy,” said Chopra.

March notes that one of these difficulties comes from a lack of co- hesion during the COVID years. A spike in cases amongst members of the team at the beginning of the fall 2021 season prevented the type of team bonding they normally hope for. This obstacle was particularly damaging because the class years had not all played together before. Now that the team has some experience together across class years, March said she hopes that team culture will improve.

“Now that we have classes that have actually played together before, our team chemistry on the field is super awesome,” said March.

This season, 16 out of 22 players are underclassmen. As a result, many first-years and second-years have been getting play time and starting. The captains and other upperclassmen are dedicated to making the team a welcome environment for those coming in.

“I think they [first years] are finding their place,” said Chopra. “In practice, we’re also seeing them step up and take roles whether it’s cheering someone on from the sidelines or if they’re working really really hard to be the first person to the ball. Their work ethic and commitment is huge.”

To the captains, making sure the first years feel a part of the team off the field is just as important as on-field communication. For example, the soccer team divides tasks like carrying equipment evenly among players instead of relying on underclassmen to do so.

Student Athlete Mentor Reese Komsthoeft `25, the first “raise the bar” recipient of the year, mentioned

a time when she gave an extra pair of shin guards to a first-year who needed it. She said support like that exemplifies the way the team has been incorporating new members.

“I really wanted to start off the year by building strong connections with them [the first-year players] and making sure that they feel included and … welcome on our team,” said Komsthoeft.

Komsthoeft’s own year, the class of 2025, makes up the largest portion of the team with nine players. Second years, as a result, have a major impact on team dynamic in the wake of losing so many fourth-year players.

“Even though we’re second years, and even though we don’t have as much experience as the current fourth years,” said Komsthoeft, “us and the third-year class really have to step up and just make sure that we keep team culture and team spirit alive.”

So far, the players are optimistic about how the season will turn out. Their first game of the season against the University of Dubuque ended in a tie, a team that Grinnell has not beaten or tied with since 2009.

Many of the current pre-season games are against more difficult teams. As such, the team’s current 1-1-1 win rate is hopefully indicative of future in-conference success.

“We have lots of harder games coming up at the beginning of the season, but I think everyone’s been working super hard in practice, and we’re really excited to see how the rest of it goes,” said March, “but [we’re] feeling super confident right now.”