After a 13-5-1 season going 8-1-0 in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) in 2015, the Webster University women’s soccer team was named the preseason favorite to win conference for the fourth straight season in 2016.
The Gorloks lost in penalty kicks to Westminster College in the final game of the SLIAC tournament, cutting their season one game short of the NCAA tournament. Head Coach Luigi Scire said that game only added fuel to his team’s fire.
“This group here probably has excelled in the fitness test better than any other group that we’ve had,” Scire said. “A lot has to do with what happened last year, how it ended and they’re using that fuel to make things work in the future. You use what ails you in the past as fuel for your fire to motivate and succeed. What happened at the end [of the season] has been our motivation throughout the offseason, preseason and into the regular season.”
This season, Scire brings back three of the top four points scores from the 2015 season. Junior forward Chelsea Noser led the team in points (29) and goals (12) last year. Also coming back to the team, 2014 SLIAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year, Kayla Dye. In 2015, Dye was third on the team in points (17) and third in goals scored (6). The season before, Dye had 29 points and 10 goals scored.
Noser’s first season at Webster was cut short due to a knee injury that caused her to miss all of the 2014 season. Last year was her first full collegiate season on her way to Second Team All-Conference.
“I managed to finish last year with 29 points and I’m hoping that I can do that again, as well as tally-up a few more assists from Kayla Dye and Alli Ferguson putting their shots into the back of the net,” Noser said.
After two knee surgeries, Noser said she is feeling as well as she can and put a lot of work in the offseason to get back to being healthy.
Scire will have to coach this season losing five seniors: Lauren Pratt, Jessica and Ashley Mess, Adrianna Carochi and Sarah Darabcsek.
Ashley Mess anchored the Gorlok’s defense that allowed 21 goals all season on her way to SLIAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) 2015 Scholar All-American. Mess was first women’s soccer player in SLIAC history to win the award.
“You wish that you can have an Ashley Mess forever, but it doesn’t work that way, so you have to have individuals who’ve worked themselves into that type of position,” Scire said. “We feel that with the loss of Ashley Mess, it’s an opportunity for Elena Bloma to become a leader. Jodi Kaiping is going to become a leader. [Sydney] Tedesco is going to become one of the defenders that we’re going to count on. As we lose individuals, we were very fortunate to have the quality individuals. Now it’s their turn.”
Scire believes that this team will be more athletic and have more quality depth than it has had in past seasons and continue to play defense just as well amid the lost leadership.
The depth is in part to the large recruiting class coming into the 2016 season. Scire and the rest of the coaching staff brought in 11 freshmen and 13 new players overall, adding on to the 16 players returning from last season.
Associate Head Coach Mike Hutchison said he expects a lot of the new players on the team this season.
“Melissa Kasper, Olivia Osterhage, Claudea Kuykendall – we expect those three to really give us a big boost, along with Janel Bond who is nursing a little bit of an ankle injury, on the offensive side of things,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison added that Lilly Brauer has really played well in the preseason.
“We’re extremely happy with the recruiting class that’s coming in. And when you blend a very good recruiting class with the core of returners, now you have a team that’s capable of doing some very good things throughout the season,” Scire said.
On top of the offensive talent the Gorloks added freshman goalkeeper Aly Miller who recorded 32 shutouts in her high school career and will share playing time with sophomore Alisa Coralic, junior Robin Bolme and freshman Abbey Mercer.
“There could potentially be a rotation until we feel comfortable with an individual that steps up and stands out, but they all will be given a chance to compete and to show to us who indeed is the best keeper,” Scire said.
Both Scire and Hutchison believe the team is built to have a long run in the conference tournament, but also in the NCAA tournament – the players and coaches expect to be there.
“It’s the same goals every year: place first in the regular season, win the conference tournament and proceed to compete into the NCAA tournament. It takes the entire team to succeed and we all just have to be on the same page,” Noser said.