Webster soccer teams chase after conference championships

0
203

Both the men’s and women’s soccer teams are hoping to achieve a St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win. The men’s team is starting the season 2-1 while the women’s team is 1-1.

The men’s and women’s soccer teams for Webster University return to action this fall, following a season shortened by COVID-19 restrictions. The Gorloks come back with hopes of a St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) win and national tournament bid.

Men

The men’s team is looking to continue its winning streak, as they are 14-1-1 in their last 15 matchups dating back from last spring. They hold a veteran roster as 11 seniors return this season.

Last season’s Defensive Player of the Year, Justin Kohler, and Offensive Player of the Year, Aahman Murvin, are two of the returning athletes. According to Kohler, the team looks just as strong as it has ever been, if not stronger.

The Gorloks begin the season 2-1, going undefeated in the preseason exhibition games while winning in a Division II matchup against Lindenwood. They received their first loss to Washington University in St. Louis. However, Kohler believes the best way to approach this season is one game at a time.

Henok Moges, senior midfielder/defender, throws the ball to one of his teammates during a game vs Washington University. Photo by Kaelin Triggs.

“It helps for everybody’s confidence,” Kohler said. “Obviously you want to start the season off with 2-0 and beating a team like [Lindenwood] means we can take it to a lot of the teams in our conference and can handle teams like that down the road. Everyone on our team is mature enough to know that it was just an exhibition game, though.”

Due to COVID-19 last season, despite winning the conference championship, the Gorloks were not given a chance to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) National Championship. According to Kohler, the team has split its season up into four sections.

The first section focuses on competing  in the non-conference matchups in the beginning of the season. Then, they want to do well enough in the conference matchups in the second half of the regular season to get a good seed for the conference tournament. From there, Kohler wants the team to once again win the conference tournament to earn a bid into the NCAA National Tournament.

“This year will be everybody’s last time together for this [upper class] group who have been playing together for four to five years,” Kohler said. “Last year was great to win [the SLIAC tournament], but to win and not make the [NCAA tournament] is what’s driving the team now. We all still want that.”

Kohler also said since the team won last year, there is a target on their backs from other conference competitors. Since most of the team’s key players from last season are returning, Kohler believes the run for conference champions shouldn’t be much different.

One of those key players includes sophomore Mark Moore, who tied for leading the conference in points last season. He scored 22 points and eight assists in only 12 games on the soccer field while also competing for the basketball team.

According to Moore, even though they are returning a lot of key players, the team has a deep roster as far as talent and skills. Moore said the team has not played at its full strength yet, as it is still early in the season and they are still working on small details.

“I know everyone this summer got some work in and everyone came back a little better,” Moore said. “A lot of times when people win championships, teams just take it easy but we didn’t lose that much. We are like a whole new team – maybe even better than last year.”

For Moore, the biggest barriers getting in the way right now are the team members’ own minds. According to him, and much like Kohler’s mentality, the team just needs to focus on one game at a time and not get too caught up in the championship games and making nationals.

Moore said one thing which makes a team great is being able to rely on every individual. Michael Siener, head coach of men’s soccer, said the attitude of the team this year is great and they continue to work together to achieve success.

“Right now we are just trying to improve each day and reach our overall fitness and playing abilities,” Siener said. “There are high expectations in our program, but as a staff we realize we only have been playing and practicing for two weeks.  You try to win games as the season goes on, but most importantly, you’re trying to just improve on areas that you’re not doing well.”

The men’s next game will be in Indiana for the Anderson/Manchester Tournament held from Sept. 10 through Sept. 11.

Women

The women’s soccer team starts its season with an even 1-1 record after going 7-4 last season. An upset in the semi-finals of the SLIAC tournament last spring to Westminster College ended the Gorlok’s season before they had a chance to defend their title from 2019.

Despite falling short in the spring, the Gorloks have high hopes for this season as they return nine starters. According to junior midfielder, Jordan Bilyeu, the team is looking to build its chemistry.

“Last year was a little stressful,” Bilyeu said. “We weren’t allowed to scrimmage or have team bonding so we came out last season with zero chemistry whatsoever. That’s why I think we will be a lot better this season because we were actually able to do all that before our first game.”

Freshmen forward Hope Dedic attempts to retrieve the ball from a Monmouth College defender. Photo by Kaelin Triggs.

Despite returning nine starters, the Gorloks are building on a young roster. The team only has five seniors this season while adding eight freshmen. However, head coach Luigi Scire will still be returning three All-Conference honorees and the 2019 SLIAC tournament MVP.

Jordan Lande, senior forward, returns after earning Second Team All-Conference and having the most goals on the team last spring. Along with Lande, First Team All-Conference picks, Bilyeu and Reaghan Young, will come back and build upon the team’s defensive play. Adding to the two defensive All-Conference picks, junior goal-keeper, Taryn Banfield, brings back her 2019 tournament MVP title to aid the Gorloks.

With the goal of winning conference and making it past the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Gorloks are really focusing on their endurance, according to Lande. She said these first few games really helped show what they need to fix and work on.

Lande and Bilyeu both added they want to go undefeated at home. Along with this, the team wants to score at least three goals per game and have a shutout every game. Bilyeu thinks building on team chemistry will help reach these goals.

“[The first game] was our first real game and our first away game so there was a lot of adjusting,” Lande said. “We came out [the second game] and played a lot better and made those changes.”

The women team’s next matchup will be against Millikin University at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8. The game will be played at World Wide Technology Soccer park in Fenton, Missouri.

 

Share this post

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Sports Editor | + posts

Kaelin Triggs (he/him) is the sports editor for the Journal. He is a journalism major pursuing a career in sports writing. He also runs for Webster's track and cross country team, and he enjoys playing piano and hanging out with friends and family.