Soccer teams go 1,011 miles in 2.5 day roadtrip

The Lawrentian light did not shine brightly onto the Men’s and Women’s soccer teams this past weekend. Both teams played Illinois College and Grinnell College without getting satisfying results; however, this means their thirst for obtaining results only intensifies. Despite not having either team win any game this past weekend, our Vikings did not shy away without a fight. In three out of the four games total, the final score was within two points. Compared to the overall seasons’ mean score ranges much higher in terms of number of goals scored against, which is a plus to take away this weekend for both teams! I interviewed sophomore Julien Riviere, who plays on the men’s team, and freshman Wakana Komura on the women’s team because I feel like these two players offer an interesting perspective and are important key players on either team. Julien, for example, is one of the team’s captains and so plays a larger role and has a larger impact on the men’s soccer program. Wakana, on the other hand, offers an interesting perspective; she is from Japan and is in the Waseda program here at Lawrence. Not only does Wakana contribute to the team’s diversity but she is also a key player on the team. Wakana has scored our first and only goal of the season so far for the women’s soccer team and I have no doubt that her skills on the field will continue to amaze us! Since Riviere is a captain, I asked him what he believes his roll is on the team. He responded by saying, “Encouraging everyone to give their best on and off the field. Also, setting a good example.” Now the game against Illinois College for the men’s team was a difficult one. They had the chance to tie and possibly win the game in the last ten minutes, but a penalty kick shot was blocked by the opponent’s goalie, and though they mustered all the strength within themselves, they were not able to put the ball in the back of the net before the time ran out. Because of this frustrating event and knowing that Julien is captain and is seen as a leader, I asked him how he personally coped and mentally prepared himself and the team to get ready to play another game the next day against Grinnell. Julien said, “We knew we were going into it with 12 guys where the other team had 24. I told the guys before the game to give me 90 minutes and let me know if you couldn’t. I really think we played with a lot of heart.” To wrap things up I asked him, “Despite the disappointing turnout for this weekend, what do you think was something that your team did really well?” He said, “Nobody gave up at any point, even after missing the penalty kick shot we still had ten minutes left to play, but everyone still gave it their all, they gave their hearts.” On the other side I asked Wakana, who plays on the women’s soccer team, if she noticed anything different in our soccer program here at Lawrence versus the one she’s used to in Japan, taking into consideration that she’s a transfer student in the Waseda program. She responded by saying, “Almost everything is different. However, the connection with the teammates is stronger here than it is in Japan because we see each other every day. And how we eat meals with each other, to me that helps us build these strong bonds, which in turn leads to better communication on the field.” I then asked Wakana to reflect on her soccer season so far and asked what she thought the women’s soccer team had improved on from this past weekend, playing at Illinois College and Grinnell. Wakana said, “Defending was better this weekend compared to when we played St. Norbert. In the past we have let more goals in from corner kicks compared to this weekend, showing we did a better job of marking up and clearing the balls. Also, we have been connecting passes more which allows us to play more in the opponent’s half.”

I then got the coach’s perspectives on how the weekend went. I asked the men’s soccer head coach Will Greer if he projected that this weekend was going to be tough, or if he was surprised with the results. He commented by saying, “I thought it was going to be tough looking at the health of our team. The ball didn’t bounce our way in the first game. It was especially disappointing when we missed a penalty kick shot. I believe if we would have tied it there, another goal would have come, possibly winning us the game. The game against Grinnell was going to be tougher, considering Grinnell’s roster size compared to ours, which only had 12 and the fact that we just played a game a day earlier, but their grit and heart never wavered.” I then asked coach Greer if the men’s team were to play Illinois College and Grinnell again, if he thinks they would have gotten a different outcome. Coach Greer said, “I think if we played them again we could get results from both games. We have talent but having that overall good health of the team is not present at the moment, but if we were to play them again with 15 or 16 players, I believe we could win at least one game, but both is possible. For the rematch, I would have them press higher and set the tempo verses having the opposition team bring the tempo to us.”

As well as that, I asked the women’s soccer head coach Joe Sagar what he was proud of from this weekend. He said, “The shape of the team and individual players understanding of their roles are getting better and better, it’s especially apparent with defending. We had our best defending performance of the season this weekend, and the grit was there even though we spent a lot of time on the bus.” I then proceeded to ask Coach Sagar what he believes our greatest strength is, what we have improved on the most so far and what we need to fix in order to be successful and get results. Coach Sagar replied by saying, “Our biggest strength is camaraderie and resilience from this group of women. Fitness, athleticism, organization have all been areas where the team has improved. Our biggest challenge is that our roster is small. Being able to string together a full 90 minutes of performance is my goal for the team, and though so far it has not been accomplished, this weekend was the closest we’ve come so far as a team to achieving it.” What seems to be the overarching theme is the problem that both the men’s and women’s soccer teams struggle with: they lack a big roster. However, both coaches agree that if this problem is fixed, success if not far off for the Vikings.