Women’s soccer wins big against Centre College, Piedmont University

| Sports Editor

Women’s soccer celebrate a team goal during a game last fall season. (Emmett Campbell | Student Life)

An old sports gambling adage states the following: “Good teams win, great teams cover.” While the sports betting craze has yet to make its way to Division III Women’s Soccer, the Washington University Bears would have certainly covered the spread this weekend. The squad is off to a 2-0 start after a trip to Kentucky, beating Centre College by a 2-0 margin on Sunday and routing Piedmont College in an 8-0 drubbing on Monday afternoon.

The  No. 10 Bears shared the love during their impressive weekend in the Bluegrass State. Seven different players scored at least one goal, and three others recorded at least one assist. While neither of their opponents were ranked, both came off of winning seasons and provided ample competition for the squad.

The match versus Centre was competitive early and knotted at 0 at the half. Sophomore forward Ella Koleno noted that a lack of scouting reports prevented the Bears from formulating an effective attack at first. 

“Once we saw how they played, we could settle down at half, talk strategy a little bit, figure out what we needed to fix,” Koleno said. 

The Bears went on to score two goals early in the second half, the first by Junior Meryl McKenna and the second just 2 minutes later by graduate transfer Samantha McKibben. 

In game two, the Bears struck early, scoring three goals in the first 15 minutes. The first two goals came from graduate student Madeline Allburn, who came to WashU after four years of playing at Wake Forest. The Bears scored again in the 17th minute on another goal from McKenna. The Bears scored four more times in the second half, including a goal from Koleno in the 52nd minute. The match ended up becoming an absolute drubbing; the Bears launched 38 shots, compared to just one from the Piedmont Lady Lions.

The Bears have already scored more goals thus far than in their first 11 games of last season. Last year the Bears started relatively slowly, going 4-2-5 and scoring just nine total goals in their first 11 matches. Lackluster play continued into the UAA conference games, as the team struggled to a 2-4-1 and only qualified for the NCAA tournament via an at-large bid. But the Bears turned it up when it mattered most, defeating division rivals Carnegie Mellon in the Sweet Sixteen before narrowly losing in penalties in the elite eight.

This year, the team is out for revenge, as the DIII powerhouse seeks to improve its record in league play and make a deeper postseason run. Gone are all-UAA defender Ellie Brauner, along with Maggie Brett, the All-America forward who bounced back from three ACL tears to lead the team in goals (12) and assists (8). Replacing them, however, are a whopping 10 freshmen, three graduate transfers, and a number of impressive underclassmen to expand upon last year’s second-half success with increased opportunity to shine. 

One such player is Koleno, who started both games and recorded a goal and an assist on Monday. She played in all 23 games last season but is likely to see an increased role this season after starting both games this weekend. But Koleno remains solely focused on team success.

“We’re just trying to work together as a team to get as many wins as we can. As many shutouts as we can, as many multiple-goal wins,” Koleno said. The Bears fulfilled both goals this weekend.

Another key player for the Bears will be junior Midfielder McKenna, who recorded two goals this weekend passing last season’s total in the first weekend. McKenna called the opening a “really positive start” for the team.

Key to the Bears’ Championship hopes will be the addition of a trio of graduate students. Midfielder McKibben (Depaul), Forward Allburn (Wake Forest), and Defender Ally Hackett (UNC-Greensboro) each have experience playing at the Division I level. All three debuted and logged significant minutes on Monday. 

“They’ve transitioned into our team and our culture pretty seamlessly,” McKenna said after Monday’s win. “We’re more than happy to have them.”

The expectations for WashU remain lofty as always, as the team competes for their ninth UAA title in 11 years. The Bears will play their first home game this Saturday versus Carroll University. McKenna and the rest of the team are also looking ahead to their Oct. 1 match versus Emory which will mark the beginning of UAA Conference Play. 

“It’s something we have marked on our calendar, that first UAA weekend home at Francis [Field],” McKenna said. “But we just look one day at a time, focusing on one opponent at a time”.

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