Women’s soccer stays undefeated with wins at Rhodes College Challenge Tournament

| Senior Sports Editor
A soccer player in a white jersey holds her right arm against another soccer player in a purple jersey. Football uprights stand in the background.

Senior midfielder Erin Flynn shields the ball from a Loras University defender last weekend. (Photo by Nina Bergman | Student Life)

Keep taking shots and they will eventually go in — that’s been the strategy all season for the No. 5 Washington University women’s soccer team. So far, it has worked brilliantly. The Bears traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, over the weekend and came home with dominant 3-0 and 4-1 wins against the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and DePauw University, respectively, improving their record to 5-0-1 on the season. 

Consistent with their play all season, the Bears outshot both opponents. Especially against DePauw, whom they outshot 22-1, WashU pushed the ball downfield, created opportunities from their midfielders and relentlessly pressured the opposing defense. Slow first halves in both matches gave way in the second halves, when WashU’s shots started landing and confidence began growing.

The Saturday match against UW-Whitewater, started with quality shots that couldn’t seem to find the net, as has become a theme for the season. Senior Emily Kaufman bounced a shot off the post, and Whitewater’s goalie made multiple quality saves to keep the game scoreless going into the half. 

But coming out for the second half, the Bears looked the most polished they have been all season. Goals from three different players, each one more spectacular than the last, showcased some of the best offense WashU has played, boding well for their upcoming University Athletic Association matchups. “You miss all the shots you don’t take,” emphasized senior Gabbie Cesarone. “That’s going to be how we put away teams. The more shots we have that means the more opportunities we have.”

A particularly bright spot came in the 53rd minute when, after a Whitewater defender headed a WashU corner kick in the box, Cesarone headed it back to junior Riley Alvarez, who herself headed it into the net for a circus-style goal for the Bears. “I saw Riley was still onsides but kind of lingering right in front of the net, so I tried to find her with that second header, and then she just got the end of it and redirected [it] in, which is huge,” Cesarone said. 

WashU again came out slow in their Sunday match against DePauw University, falling behind 1-0 in the 13th minute after sophomore goalkeeper Sidney Conner got a hand on, but could not fully deflect, a shot into the top-right corner from DePauw’s Whitney Wells. Starting with a chip-in goal by freshman Nicole Gulati in the 35th minute, though, the Bears took control of the game and never let go. 

Senior Ariana Miles stood out on the day with two goals coming within four minutes of one another (66′, 70′) to put the game out of reach at 3-1. Junior Jolie Carl added another goal in the 86th minute to bring the final score to 4-1. 

While the competition so far this season may not have been stiff, WashU has put away teams they know they are better than all season in an efficient and commanding manner. As the schedule gets tougher down the road, however, it will be interesting to watch how the team adjusts to teams who can counter WashU’s strong attack game. The defense has also remained strong, anchored by Cesarone at center back. “Thus far, we’ve done a pretty good job of only allowing a couple shots and really shutting people down in the middle of the field and not having to defend in our 18,” she said. Still, the Bears have yet to face a strong attack game that will stretch the defense.

There remains much to be seen about this WashU team, but early signs show them maintaining the program’s scintillating reputation. 

Read about some of WashU’s most recent playoff runs:

Women’s soccer stunned: With a single stop, the season was over

‘The story of the World Series was just the missed opportunities’: Baseball ends historic season with a loss in Final Four to St. Thomas

From chasing a championship to searching for closure: Men’s basketball’s final week, in the Bears’ own words, Part 1

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.