Against Atlantic 10 conference foe Fordham University on Friday, Oct. 3, the team’s leading scorer, senior forward Maren Johansen, assisted senior forward Alex Gogolin for the game-clinching goal, proving she’ll play whatever role necessary to help her team win.
The VCU women’s soccer team have found their spark halfway through the season to extend their unbeaten streak to five games. In August, Johansen opened the season scoring the first three goals in a 3-3 tie against Marshall University on Aug. 24. She followed this feat by scoring the team’s only goal in a 1-1 tie to Old Dominion University on Aug. 29 and scored VCU’s lone goal in the 4-1 home loss to Clemson University on Aug. 31. At the end of the month, Johansen was the only scorer for the Lady Rams.
“I had a good start coming into the season and was able to put away the opportunities I had,” Johansen said. “Offensively, my strengths are in my pace and beating people down the flank but these skills are most effective in combination with good balls from my teammates.”
Johansen has been playing soccer since she was seven years old, and grew up in the town Mosjøen in the southern part of the county of Northland, Norway. She played for two soccer clubs in Mosjøen, Norway: Mosjøen IL and Halsøy IL. She also played for the club Grand Bodo, a soccer club from Bodo, Nordland where the team won the Gothia Cup tournament held in Sweden. She has also been active in other sports such as handball and skiing and said she feels each endeavor helped with her transition to VCU.
“I believe that has helped me become the soccer player I am today,” Johansen said.
As a freshman, she played in all 21 games, starting in 19. As a sophomore, she was in the lineup for every match of the season and led the team in assists with six. She was also named to the A-10 all-tournament team that year. Last year as a junior, she finished the season tied for the most scored goals with five, a career high she surpassed against American University in a 3-0 win on Sept. 14.
Now in her fourth year, Johansen said she feels she has grown quite close to the team, understanding that her success this season and throughout her collegiate career has had a lot to do with her teammates.
“We are always together practicing, eating or studying,” Johansen said. “My teammates play a huge role in my soccer career. It’s mostly your teammates that help you get better by challenging you every day out at the practice fields, and the ones who motivate you to keep going.”
According to Johansen, her teammates aren’t the only ones she feels played a role in her development as a player. She said head coach Lindsey Vanderspiegel and her coaching staff are great at pointing out areas which she needs to improve as well as communicating with the team.
“I’ve been working on my position tactically and being more disciplined defensively,” Johansen said. “I like the fact that we are such a tight unit, and the whole experience is very professional. I feel like I have all resources available to succeed both in soccer and academics.”
Through the first half of the regular season, Johansen has tallied six goals, 28 shots and is two for two on penalty kicks. Her assist for the game-winner against Fordham University was her first of of the season.
Next, the Rams will continue conference play by hosting a four-game stand at Sports Backers Stadium in matchups against: University of Rhode Island on Sunday, Oct. 12, cross-town rival University of Richmond on Friday, Oct. 17, Davidson College on Sunday, Oct. 19, and George Washington University on Saturday, Oct. 25.
“Conference play is critical to reaching our goal of winning the A-10 tournament,” Johansen said. “I really look forward to this second half of our season because every game and every play is so important.”
Whether Johansen finishes the season as the Ram’s leading scorer or not, she said she feels nothing is more important than the team.
“Although my name goes down on the stat sheets, every goal is a team effort,” Johansen said. “As a forward you will not experience a lot of success without a good team behind you.”