Women’s soccer seeks redemption during postponed season

Redshirt-junior midfielder Emma Kershner is defended by freshman forward Annabel Anderson at practice. Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics

Joe Dodson, Contributing Writer 

VCU women’s soccer is tapping their disappointment from finishing 10th in the Atlantic 10 as fuel for this season as they prepare to launch their spring campaign against Liberty on Sunday. 

“We’re super motivated to get this redemption season back,” said senior midfielder Emma Kershner. “This is our time to show the conference and other teams that that was just a fluke, and that’s not who VCU is.” 

When the A-10 postponed fall sports to the spring due to COVID-19, the team decided to make the best of it.

“It was a great time for us to really build as a team,” Kershner said. “We have 11 new faces, so we were able to get them into our methods, ideas and how we want to play.” 

The new additions to the team are expected to have immediate impacts. Freshman midfielder Aisha Maughan joins the Rams after playing internationally for the U19, U17 and U16 Scottish National Teams.

“I would say Aisha is going to be super crafty and fun to watch,” Kershner said. “She is good on the ball, has good technical skills and provides a fun way to watch the game.” 

This season, A-10 teams will play a shortened nonconference season before competing in a five-team pod. Teams within the groups will play home and away matches, and the winners will advance to the A-10 tournament held April 15-17.

The A-10 split the conference into three groups based on geographical location in order to reduce travel distance. VCU will play George Mason, George Washington, University of Richmond and Davidson.

“This is the year that we pick up the pieces that broke down from last season and really put it together and finally get the result we really want,” said senior defender Karen Lohrmann. 

Coach Lindsey Martin brought VCU alumna and former player Gabby Muncy over the offseason to join her staff as volunteer assistant coach to help readdress the team’s culture. 

“Sometimes we lose sight of the culture piece,” Martin said. “So I think for us, we felt like Gabby was a really impactful addition for us in that she can focus on that.”

The squad has had open discussions about what they want their team values to be moving forward.

“By us restarting our culture, we brought in new ideas and values people really believe in,” Kershner said. “It got people to buy into what we are trying to do.” 

Kershner said the team has focused on being more committed to one another by putting the team’s goals before individual success.

“We expect to keep our culture that we’ve created and to show professionalism,” Lohrmann said. “Pretty much just like a team-first mentality and just always playing for each other.” 

Martin will have no shortage of attacking options among returning redshirt-junior midfielder Samantha Jerabek and Kershner. Both players had five goals each last season. 

Sophomore midfielder Anna Bagley also returns after a productive last season as a substitute.

“She kinda paid her dues waiting behind [former midfielder] Alyssa Tallent,” Martin said. “Now, she’s ready to go and has been looking really, really solid at the attacking mid position.”

The team also welcomes newcomers who are no stranger to finding the back of the net. Freshman forward Annabel Anderson scored 140 goals and dished out 114 assists during her high school career.

“She plays target forward, and she’s exciting to watch in the attack,” Martin said of Anderson. “She’s fun on the dribble, and she causes a lot of disruptions for the defending team.” 

A big part of VCU’s attacking presence last season was defender Susanna Friedrichs, who led the team in goals with six in her senior season. Lohrmann is expected to provide versatility to the back line this season as a wing-back, who looks for opportunities to join the attack. 

VCU will play all six of their nonconference games before starting conference play at the University of Richmond on March 14.

“A lot of the group is returning, and we feel that we got something to prove,” Martin said. “That we’re a really challenging team and able to accomplish a lot together.”

VCU kicks off their season Sunday at 2 p.m. against Liberty at Sports Backers Stadium. 

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