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The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Women’s soccer opens strong, eyes MIAC title

Mikaely Evans ’25 sends the ball forward. Photo courtesy of Macalester Athletics.

On the evening of Sept. 1, hundreds of students piled into the grandstand of Macalester’s stadium to create a raucous home atmosphere for women’s soccer’s opening night. The night celebrated the new season, and signaled new hopes and possibilities for a team on a multi-year upwards trajectory. On a match night that was folded into the festivities for orientation for the first-year class of 2027, it was fitting that a first-year player open the scoring for the Scots. 

In just the fifth minute of the match against the Blue Devils of University of Wisconsin-Stout, Adi Nhouyvanisvong ’27 controlled the ball outside the 18-yard box on the right side, beat her defender 1-on-1 and, from a tight angle, uncorked a line drive that hit the underside of the crossbar and went in, firing the Scots in front in their first match with a quality strike. With the tone set by an outrageous first goal, the Macalester faithful would not have to wait long for another one to cheer for. Just two minutes after Nhouyvanisvong’s goal, Ella Wu-Ancipink ’26, cutting inside at the top of the box found space and shaped a looping left-footed strike around a crowd and into the far post side netting. Right after the first goal set a high mark for the match and perhaps for the season, a second goal of similar quality doubled both the lead and the energy in the stadium. 

Towards the end of the half, another first year got on the scoresheet after Georgia Lewin-Mills ’27 found space in the box and found the net after a deflection off a defender sent the Stout keeper astray, for a 3-0 first half lead. 3-0 would become the final score, thanks to an airtight evening from the Scots’ defense and a combined clean sheet from keepers Ashlyn Ryan ’25 and Abigail Heuga ’27, each in goal for one half the shutout win. 

Just beyond the capacity crowd, in the upper reaches of the south end of the grandstand, a reminder of the time of Macalester’s greatest ever athletic success kept watch: ‘Women’s Soccer: 1998 National Championship,’ it reads. For these Scots, it presents an impossibly lofty challenge, but also serves a reminder of the memories that run through the stadium, the success of the past and a new era of success dawning — not just for the women’s soccer Scots, but across the board.

These Scots bring a strong culture worthy of that new era; Head Coach Madeline Buckley was quick to emphasize that as the foundation of the team’s goals: “We have worked tirelessly to create a competitive culture that is built on our core four values,” she wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “You’ll see on the back of our practice shirts, CTCT, which stand[s] for our core four values— compete, together, communicate, trust. 

“Everything we do and everything that we are has to come back to our core four every day,” Buckley continued. “Our competitive expectations stem from our ability to be one unit that is committed to being a part of a culture that puts the team above self … our goal is to return to the playoffs and win the MIAC for the first time since 2005.”

 With momentum from an emphatic home win, the Scots made the trip to crosstown opponents at the University of Northwestern (MN) for an evening match where the heat played a role, with hydration breaks throughout the match and the conditions testing each team’s endurance. The Scots picked up where they had left off, and were on the front foot from the first minute. The inevitable first goal came once again from Nhouyvanisvong, when fellow first-year Julia Hanson ’27 found her rushing onto the penalty spot and she placed it calmly past the keeper. 

After going up in the 12th minute, the Scots continued to run the show, and doubled the lead in the 39th minute off the boot of Avery Ellis ’27, and in the second half, the Scots continued pressing. Nhouyvanisvong scored again in the 71st minute, again assisted by Hanson. That goal opened the floodgates for a four-goal outburst in the space of just over ten minutes, with goals from Hanson, Nhouyvanisvong again, and Gaby Valle ’25. Another half-and-half combined shutout from Heuga and Ryan meant it was a 6-0 rout for the Scots in their first away contest of the year.

The Scots celebrate a goal against the Bennies. Photo courtesy of Madeline Buckley.


These two wins showcased both the absolute talent and the improvement of this side, which dominated the run of play, pressed persistently and kept out a constant eye for goal, always ready to pounce on mistakes from the opponent. The Scots defeated both Stout and Northwestern (MN) last season, both with clean sheets, but those were far more evenly-matched affairs. In both cases, the Scots were able to register far more shots, and shots on goal, in the 2023 rematches than the 2022 games. In the 2022 matches, the Scots also took far longer to break down their opponents and score, only getting on the scoresheet in the second half, compared to this season, where they scored early and often in lopsided games.

The previous season for these Scots was one of marked achievement; leaning especially on a 6-1-2 home record, they played to a 4-4-3 record, which was good for 6th in the MIAC, and the team’s first playoff berth since 2015, after a signature 1-0 win over Gustavus Adolphus College on senior day at the end of the regular season. Although their first playoff expedition in seven years came to an early end, at the hands of St. Catherine University in a 3-1 defeat, Macalester had put the MIAC on notice: the Scots were back. 

The playoff berth built confidence within the squad.

“Last year’s accomplishment of making playoffs for the first time in our player’s careers was exactly what our program needed to truly believe that we are capable of having a championship-driven culture,” Buckley wrote. 

“We have affectionately adopted the ‘BELIEVE’ sign from Ted Lasso since the beginning of last fall,” Buckley continued. “The sign symbolized believing in ourselves and one another. I always tell the team, ‘It is important that your coaches believe in you but what is most important is that we teach you how to believe in yourselves and one another.’ That is the most sustainable way to instill belief in a program when you want to achieve great success.”

Last year was Coach Buckley’s first season leading the Scots. With an illustrious career as a player, she brings experience at the very top of the college game. At William Smith College, she was a NCAA DIII national champion as a junior, and an All-American as a senior. On the 2013 national champion side, she led her side in scoring, and scored the game winner in the national championship. 

Buckley’s championship pedigree serves as yet another reminder of these Scots’ newfound ambition. After her time at William Smith, she was at Tufts University for seasons 2017 and 2018, as the Jumbos, who had spent the previous years without much success, made back-to-back runs to the NCAA tournament. After Tufts, she served as an assistant coach at Bowdoin College, where she took a lead role in recruiting. That knack for recruiting seems to have carried over, and already shows in impressive play from the class of 2027. 

Coach Buckley’s first recruitment class has already begun to make waves, lighting up the scoresheets. The first-year duo of Hanson and Nhouyvanisvong have already established themselves as a consistent threat up top, while Karyna Steele ’27 and Timna Nevo ’27 have helped anchor the Scots’ defense, keeping out threats on behalf of a goalkeeping tandem of Ryan and Heuga, the latter also a first-year. 

On Sept. 9, on an action-packed day that saw six teams compete, the Scots aimed high but ultimately fell short. Facing off against the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, a two-college Claremont conglomerate, the Scots fell 2-0. In a match that was postponed midway through the first half by rain, the Scots battled against a side ranked 10th in the first national coaches’ poll, and one which took down reigning MIAC playoff champions in St. Catherine University before facing the Scots. The Scots saw 19 shots, but only six were on frame, a testament to good defense in the final third. 

More than just a chance to test their mettle against some of the best in DIII, that match also brought in a familiar face: “We knew Pomona-Pitzer would be an incredible test and they proved to be just that,” Coach Buckley wrote. “We also celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the 1998 National Championship team so it was a special weekend all together. We battled with the 10th ranked team in the nation and ultimately proved to ourselves we can play with the best and that we still have a lot of necessary growth.”

After that rainy day, the Scots faced their first MIAC test on the evening of Sept. 12 against a College of Saint Benedict side that had won at Macalester Stadium in 2022. Last year, the Bennies earned second place in the MIAC, and they have returned virtually all of their key players for this season. No Macalester side had beaten Saint Ben’s since 2015, going 0-4-2 since that game; the first conference battle of the season would not be an easy one. The Scots employed an aggressive high press, looking to catch their opponent out with interceptions, but the Bennies initially had success breaking it down, consistently building up and holding possession in dangerous areas. However, when the Saint Ben’s attack loomed in their offensive third, the Macalester back line held firm, only ever allowing one real chance to their opponent, which didn’t result in a goal. The first half ended scoreless, with the Scots seeing a golden opportunity cleared off the line late in the opening period when Ella Short ’25 got the ball from a corner and beat the keeper with her shot, but saw the ball cleared away after a goal-line save from a defender. 

History and convention would suggest that Saint Ben’s — the perennial contender that had subjected the Scots to near constant pressure through much of the first half — would eventually break through and take the three points. However,  these Scots came to write their own history. 

After settling into the rhythm of the game, the Scots were able to tighten up in the high press, no longer allowing the Bennies to string together as many effective passes, as the Scots forced repeated mistakes from the opponent. In the 48th minute, the Scots were able to force the Bennies into passing the ball all the way back to their keeper, Rhianna Anya. Anya, seeing the walls close in in the form of two Scots players applying pressure, mishit her pass straight to Julia Hanson, who coolly deposited the opening goal into an empty net. 

The Scots continued pressing and found increasing success as, contrary to footballing convention, they became even more aggressive after scoring. Continually harrying the Bennies, never holding the ball for long but never allowing St. Ben’s to do anything productive in possession, the Scots settled into a groove. In the 75th minute, another successful pressing sequence earned the Scots a corner. Adi Nhouyvanisvong sent an inswinger into the box, and found Gaby Valle wide open crashing into the box, who promptly headed the ball high into the net for an insurance goal. It would prove richly needed, as the Bennies scored from a corner in the 86th minute, but couldn’t find the equalizer before time expired. 

The Scots walked away from their first MIAC clash with a statement 2-1 win over last year’s conference runner-up. It’s a win to put the MIAC on notice that these Scots are legit, and that they can compete with the best teams in the conference. Although it’s far too early to project end-of-season results, if the Scots do end up making serious waves in the regular season or the playoffs, the hard-won and resilient victory against St. Ben’s is the kind of moment one might point to as the moment that they established themselves as a real threat. 

The Scots, though, are still eager to take it one game at a time: “The belief we had last year led to a playoff berth,” Coach Buckley wrote. “That playoff berth has led to our returners being hungry for more than just a berth but to be hungry for winning playoffs. We do not shy away from title chasing and we also want to take this 2023 journey one game at a time. Our win against St. Ben’s was an important first step in our MIAC play and now our focus turns to Gustavus on Saturday. We are continuing to focus and be present with what is in our control and taking one game at a time.”

The year 2023 is already numerically special for Macalester, as they celebrate the 25th anniversary of those national champion 1998 Scots. Several members of that side came out to bagpipe fanfare before the match against Pomona-Pitzer. Using a championship history as motivation, the Scots will set off and face the rest of their MIAC season, already looking ahead to the moments of truth in late October, where playoff and championship ambitions will unfold, hoping to give the year 2023 some merits of its own.


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Noah Riccardi, Sports Editor

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