From last year to this year, the Macalester women’s soccer team lost several key starters, both due to graduation and injury, opening up several spots in the starting lineup. Although several returners competed for these spots, most were filled by first years, with four different first years starting multiple games so far this season.
With two-thirds of the first years seeing multiple starts, and two sophomores also starting multiple games, there is no arguing that the team this year is young. Out of the top twelve minutes leaders on the team, six of them are underclassmen, including two of the top three. “When freshmen come in with the level of skill that they have this year, they can jump right in and compete with us upperclassmen who have already been here for one year or more,” said Michaela McGonigle ’17, a senior captain.
When asked what had been most responsible for this wealth of young talent on the team, McGonigle was quick to emphasize a change in the recruiting strategy. According to McGonigle, the team is no longer focusing on recruiting as many players as possible, but rather on recruiting a smaller number of excellent players who can jump right into the starting lineup during their first years.
In previous years, the group fielded two teams: a first team and a second team. However, starting last year, this practice was discontinued in favor of a single combined team. “We’re slowly trying to make the gap between skill levels as small as possible,” McGonigle said in reference to the dissolution of the second team. In 2014, the first team went 9-8-1, with 23 out of 34 different players seeing action throughout the season. This year, the number of players on the entire team, injured or not, is 22, with every uninjured player seeing action in at least one game this season, yet the team is on pace for a better record.
This year, the Scots have found themselves with an excess of starting-caliber players. Although this may seem like a vice in that some would not receive as much playing time as they might hope, it is also a virtue in that when injuries do hit, others are able to step in. This year especially, injuries have been almost commonplace; whether or not they cause players to miss games, they still have an effect on the team dynamic.
“Even though injuries have been hard, we have a very deep bench, which is ideal,” McGonigle said. With several different players missing games this year, this excess of starters has been extremely beneficial and has allowed the team to continue to a reasonable record despite these hardships. The starting lineup itself has been in flux this year as well, with 20 players earning at least one start. Seventeen women have started multiple times this season, as the team continues to optimize their talent.
“We’re all capable of performing at a certain level, and we can all push each other, which allows us to get better,” McGonigle said. The results have been showing, with the team sporting a record of 5-3-3 so far despite the hardship, including a three-game win streak at one point early in the season. In addition to scoring 18 goals to their opponents’ eight scored against, the team has only received a single yellow and a single red card so far this season, emphasizing the sportsmanship the team puts forth each game.
Although the latest result may have been a loss to the #12 nationally ranked St. Thomas, the team viewed it, all things considered, as a success. “That was arguably our best performance this year, we were able to play at a level we have known we could. Having played that way, that will be our standard,” McGonigle said. With home games against Carleton and St. Scholastica coming up, the team is looking forward to what happens next.