After abrupt season ending, women’s soccer returns

Senior midfielder Aileen Guthrie, left, celebrates with her teammates after scoring the game-winning goal against JMU on Aug. 19. Photo by Jay Stonefield

Kaitlyn Fulmore, Contributing Writer

A coin toss ended the VCU women’s soccer postseason hopes in the spring, leaving the team devastated, according to redshirt-senior goalkeeper Grace Young. 

“We thought it was really unfair and really unjustified,” Young said. “It felt like we were robbed of a chance to do anything.”

The Rams were edged out by Dayton for the final spot in the A-10 tournament last spring, ending their season as a result of a tiebreaker.

While last season’s ending stung in the moment, junior midfielder Anna Bagley says that it set the tone for not taking any game for granted this season.

“We’re just going into every game as our last game,” Bagley said. “Giving everything we have for that current game, and not worrying about the rest of the season.”

The A-10 preseason poll, which was released on Aug. 12, ranked the team to finish third this season. The Rams were one point shy of Dayton, who is ranked second, and the defending conference champion, Saint Louis, was ranked first.

“I definitely think we have something to prove,” Young said. “That we are, and should be, number one.”

After last year’s season ended in the spring, the team dealt with a quick turnaround with their next season starting in the fall. Unlike previous years where the team would have up to nine months to rest, regroup and train, the team had less than three months of rest before practice began in the fall. 

“We ended the spring in a really good place physically and hopefully they could maintain that throughout the summer months,” coach Lindsey Martin said. “We were pleased with what they did this summer in order to come prepared for our August 2 report date.”

The Rams opened their season with a 1-0 victory over James Madison on Thursday night at Sports Backers Stadium, led by senior midfielder Aileen Guthrie’s goal in the final 15 seconds to win.

The team continued their winning streak with a 2-1 win on the road against University of North Carolina Wilmington on Sunday. Redshirt-senior forward Samantha Jerabek scored the first goal 14 minutes into the game and redshirt-senior midfielder Emma Kershner added the second goal just 90 seconds after. 

“Even though they weren’t the prettiest wins it shows we’re here to fight,” Bagley said. “We’re gonna stick it out through the entire game even if we’re scoring in the last ten seconds.”

A large number of upperclassmen return this season. A total of five redshirt-seniors and five seniors, including A-10 first team selections Jerabek and Kershner, return with advice and leadership for the underclassmen.

“There’s no replacement for that level of experience,” Martin said. “It makes our job easier as a coaching staff because the expectation is there and they know what it is.”

Martin says that sophomore transfer defender Natalia Santangelo, freshman midfielder Kanna Matsuhisa, freshman defender Greta Kraszula and freshman midfielder Isidora Gajdobranski are key newcomers to the team.

“There wasn’t a particular need for an impact player, it was more that we needed depth,” Martin said of the freshmen. “They’re all doing some really good things.”

The Rams have competed twice in the A-10 championship during the nine years they have been competing in the conference, but have never been able to snatch the title.

“There’s always pressure, but it’s not something that we feel unsuccessful without,” Martin said. “We know we have the ability to reach those goals, and it’s more about us attaining a standard we know we’re capable of.”

However, with 10 out of the 11 starters returning from last season, Young says there is pressure to bring home the title.

“With the talent and the skill and this team right now, there’s a lot of internal pressure to actually do really well and win it.”

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