Bears look to extend undefeated streak to 11
The Washington University Women’s Soccer team has faced its share of tough competition early on this year. The women have already beaten several tough teams on their non-conference schedule, including De Pauw University and most recent conference foe Carnegie Mellon.
They tied the nationally-ranked Titans of Illinois Wesleyan and suffered their only loss of the year to seventh-ranked Wheaton College. Although the Bears have faced their share of tough competition thus far, their schedule will not be getting any easier.
This weekend, the Bears will travel to Atlanta to face off against rival Emory University in what is possibly the squad’s most important match thus far. In addition to being the second game of the crucial UAA conference season, Saturday’s contest represents a chance for the Bears to gain a lot of respect at the national level. Emory is currently ranked 15th in the nation, while the hungry Bears sit just beneath the 25th and final spot in the poll.
Such an important game calls for a game plan.
“We need to come out strong and take control of the game right away,” assistant coach Chris Sellers said. “Our mentality has to be to go forward with the ball and to attack. We have to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Head coach Wendy Dillinger believes that in order for the Bears to be successful, they must switch the field through the back line and exploit Emory’s poor defending strikers. Getting the outside defenders involved in the attack and controlling the weak side of the field will also be pivotal in this most important match.
Although the Bears have played some quality teams, none of the games thus far have carried the same significance as this Saturday’s contest. This is where the Bears will find out how good they really are. They will be playing on the road against one of the school’s fiercest rivals, who also happens to be nationally-ranked and competing for the same crown as our Bears. The Bears toughness and composure, not to mention their youth, will come underfire.
The Bears’ youth, though, has been an important part of this team’s success. This year’s talented freshmen class has added a significant amount of depth to the Bears’ roster, with Dillinger frequently playing over twenty players in tight games. Sellers said that depth was only one of several reasons for the squad’s early success.
“We’ve done a good job limiting opponents’ shots, which translates into good team defense and making the big saves when they need to be made,” Sellers said, highlighting the Bears’ rock-solid defensive line.
What may be most important for the Bears to remember at this point in the year, is that they still have a long way to go. The squad must be careful not to become satisfied with what it has already achieved. The Bears can’t become complacent if they are to win the UAA crown or beat Emory University. There are a few chinks in the Bears’ armor, a few imperfections in their game that could use some work.
Sellers said that the Bears need to work on being consistent, and need to improve their first touch on the ball, as well as their finishing ability.
“Our team needs to develop a dangerous first touch, a purposeful first touch. We need to be thinking several plays ahead,” said Sellers
Without a doubt, Saturday’s match against Emory will be one of the Bears’ most critical games of the year. Both teams have a lot riding on the outcome of what is sure to be a highly competitive and intense game. Emotions will run high, and strength of mind and body will be tested.
“At this point, ‘I’m doing my best’ isn’t good enough,” Sellers said. “Now, it has to be ‘I’ll do whatever it takes.’”
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