On an unusually sun-soaked Tuesday in November, the Macalester Women’s Soccer team’s season came to a close as they lost their MIAC quarterfinal match-up 1-0 to visiting Concordia. Despite the disappointment of an early exit, this season was undoubtedly a positive one for the Scots, as they defied expectations and rebuilt around a young core that promises stronger seasons to come. “Our loss yesterday does not define the season,” said midfielder and captain Lily Jilk ’16. “What defines the season was how many wins we had, the fact we only lost three times and just how strong we were playing.”
The Scots finished the season with a 10-3-4 record, going 7-1-3 in conference play. Two years ago, the Scots went 13-5-1 to claim second place in the conference, eventually losing to St. Benedict’s in the championship game of the MIAC playoffs. A year later they finished 9-8-1, with a 5-5-1 record in conference, and missed out on the postseason. The experience of last year pushed these Scots to focus on the outcome of each game, knowing it could be vital in the long run. “We talked early on about making sure to focus on our conference games, knowing that even a tie could end up haunting us,” Head Coach Michelle Cornish said. “We wanted to have as much control over the end of our regular season as possible.”
The Scots had an uncertain start, and many weren’t sure how they would fare against the preseason #7 rank in conference. “There were some unfortunate ties early in the season that felt like they set us back,” Jilk’s co-captain and fellow midfielder Lydia Chodosh ’16 said. “But really they were empowering because they gave us a lot of drive to overcome opportunities that we missed early on.”
As September turned to October the Scots went on an impressive tear, going 12 straight games without a loss and closing out the season with six wins in a row. Both Chodosh and Jilk point to the Scots’ 2-1 win over Carleton as a moment when the team truly began to believe in the possibility of playoffs. “We had our heads down just worried about the next game and then all of the sudden we looked back and we were like ‘Wow, we haven’t lost in eight games,’” Jilk said. The last two weeks of the season the Scots climbed into the regional rankings, earning a 7th place nod this week.
The final home game of the regular season against St. Ben’s doubled as senior night for the Scots and served as a chance to celebrate the contributions of the eight seniors on this team. “I believe that our players, especially the seniors, who show up every single day, and push their teammates and themselves to be better, knowing that their minutes in games will be limited (if not zero) were the selfless backbone of our squad,” Cornish said.
The Scots finished the regular season in a three-way tie for second place with Gustavus and Augsburg. As all teams finished with 24 points, the final standings were determined by the result of regular season match-ups — on September 15 the Scots lost 0-2 to Gustavus, but picked up a 2-0 win over Augsburg on October 24. With the number three seed secured, Macalester hosted number six Concordia at home on Tuesday afternoon. “Playing well for 90 minutes is important against a team like Concordia,” said Cornish. “They have been in good form recently and they will always bring high energy to the game.”
In the 21st minute Emily Wendorff of Concordia wove through a pack of Macalester defenders before sending a shot past sophomore keeper Rachel Wilson-King in the lower left pocket. It proved to be the deciding score, as the Scots never found the net themselves. This failure to score was despite an impressive 12 shots on goal, 11 of which came in the second half. The game stayed tense as the Scots sent two shots off the crossbar in the final eight minutes. First, midfielder Lydia Chodosh ’16 shot from distance, catching Concordia’s keeper off guard, as the ball dipped down and hit the crossbar, bouncing away from goal. Minutes later, defender Katja McKiernan ’18 won a header off a corner kick, which caromed off the crossbar and over the goal.
Both the captains and their coach credit the close-knit community that balanced levity and work ethic. This was the first season in Coach Cornish’s four-year tenure that the Scots did not field both a first and second team, but rather played and practiced as a single squad. “I think this year in particular was really different because we only had one team and were completely unified. It was so cohesive,” Chodosh said. “Everyone was really in it together and I felt like everyone was on the same page.”
By fostering a strong sense of team over the past winter and spring full of lifting and conditioning, the team was able to easily incorporate their four incoming freshmen.“It was really easy to get to know them and trust them on the field right away,”Jilk said. The first-years were also able to make a big impact; the Scots’ starting backline features two — Clara Webby and Mia Stripp.
Next year, the Scots will bring back six underclassman starters, including leading scorer Jaime Hasama ’18. Hasama racked up 20 points on the season with nine goals and two assists, just a year after missing most of the season due to injury. In goal, Macalester will bring back Rachel Wilson-King ’18 and Emma Toomer ’18 who shared time this season.
Though their four years with the Scots have come to a close, Chodosh and Jilk are sure this is not the end of their road. After spending her fair share of time rehabbing injuries, Jilk wants to go into physical therapy and ultimately coaching. As for Chodosh, she’s looking into playing abroad: “For sure, soccer is not going to leave me anytime soon,” she said.
While the end was bittersweet, this was a season to celebrate. “I’m so incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished this year,” Jilk said.