Ten freshmen. Zero seniors. The expectation is still to win conference.
The Webster University women’s soccer team is driven this season. An upset from Greenville College in last year’s St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference semifinals fuels the Webster Gorloks this year. Since January, the captains have organized team workouts, conditioning schedules and summer leagues to get their young team in midseason form.
“Our expectation is to win the conference tournament and get to the NCAA tournament,” coach Luigi Scire said. “And we can do that with a young team.”
The roster is absent of seniors due to three players plagued by injuries. Shelby Wade and Brittany Senator were both expected to battle for the starting keeper position. But Senator was ruled out after offseason hip surgery and Wade did not recover from chronic lower back pain.
The third senior would have been defender Caroline Schmidt, who had ACL surgery and was expecting to be back for this year. But problems in rehab delayed her recovery and made playing this season out of reach.
The team is still returning important parts of the team from last season. Leading scorer Kristin Montgomery and starting goalie Jessica Davis are back for their sophomore seasons.
However, the team leaders are going to have to step up earlier than expected.
Defender Kristen Muehlenfeld, midfielder Katie Aubuchon and midfielder Ally Nikolaus are not just the top juniors on the team — they are also the three captains.
“It’s exciting to think that we are all going to play together for four years,” Muehlenfeld said. “We do have a lot to learn since we all haven’t played together before, but it’s exciting to have a lot of new players.”
Video by Sam Masterson
That team chemistry, especially on the offensive side of the ball, is usually the toughest to obtain. In a preseason match versus St. Louis Community College, the Gorloks came away with only a 1-1 tie.
However, another powerful defense has been created by Scire as the Gorloks held STLCC to only six shots on goal the entire game.
“We created many opportunities, and we were very dangerous,” Scire said. “Between now and the start of the season there are some finer points we need to look at and polish up.”
Looking to bring back an even stronger offensive season is Montgomery. She is returning after leading the team with 10 goals and being named an All-Conference honorable mention in 2011.
“It was nice last year having (2012 graduate) Morgan (Milfeld) as competition,” Montgomery said. “Me and her were off and on with the goals for a long time. I’m just going to do my best and hopefully we’ll win.”
Montgomery said it could be anyone on the team this year that may compete with her in goal totals.
Between the pipes for her second season is Davis. Last year, she gave up only four goals in 860 minutes of play. She also received a conference award as Newcomer of the Year last season.
If Davis has any pressure on her this season, it will be to stay healthy because she is the only keeper on the roster.
The season goal remains the same as it has been since 1999, the women’s soccer inaugural season — win the SLIAC championship and make the NCAA tournament. Anything less will be considered a disappointment.
Freshmen will be called upon and be put in big roles this season, Scire said. Montgomery and Davis showed last season it is possible for freshmen to succeed in bigger roles. Defender Briana Small, forward Jessica Mess and defender Ashley Mess — along with seven other freshmen — will be counted on all season by Scire.
“We will be young, we will be eager, we will be aggressive,” Scire said. “We will be hungry to win conference and to get to the NCAA tournament.”