During Saturday’s game against Scranton, the women’s soccer team faced challenges from beginning to end. With their backs against the wall, the Bombers trailed Scranton by a goal late in the game, but managed to pull out a victory.
Playing talented opponents early in the season helps the South Hill squad learn how to cope in the type of high-pressure games they will encounter later in the season.
The Bombers have historically scheduled opponents that are among some of the best in the nation to begin their season. Still, the South Hill squad has risen to the challenge. Since 2004, the women’s soccer team has had 13 wins in 21 tournament games, played in late August and early September.
It’s games against talented teams like Scranton, a team ranked 4th in the Mid-Atlantic region last year, that test the team’s ability. Head Coach Mindy Quigg said scheduling this difficult game was an opportunity to compete against a solid team, grow as a team and get familiar with a potential opponent in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
“We try to play good competition early because we may not see these teams until a regional or national tournament,” Quigg said. “And that’s when we need to be playing our best soccer.”
Back in 2009, the Bombers squared off with Messiah College, which at the time was ranked 1st in the nation. Despite losing this game 4-1, the Blue and Gold advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals. They ended up losing to the College of New Jersey.
This year, the South Hill squad was able to come out with two shutout victories at William Smith College’s Heron Cup in Geneva, N.Y. One of those victories was a 1-0 thriller in the Aug. 31 opening game against the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, a team that has been a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship playoff contender for the past three seasons.
Along with the variety of competition, these games have also opened up potential for experimentation with different players in different positions on the field. In the Bombers’ 3-0 win Sept. 1 against Babson College, senior back/midfielder Kathleen Kamerzel said almost the entire roster saw playing time.
“Our lineup is always changing, and there’s always possibilities that someone else can step up and do something,” Kamerzel said. “Coach [Quigg] was definitely trying some new things and trying to figure out who works well together.”
Kamerzel said starting off with wins against quality opponents is a good confidence booster that sets a strong foundation for the season.
“Getting the first wins is key because first of all, it shows all the other teams in the conference that we’re not messing around, and we’re ready to go and ready to play,” Kamerzel said.
The Bombers will now turn their attention to their own conference, with four of the next six games on the schedule set against Empire 8 opponents. Quigg said the Blue and Gold faced a playing atmosphere in Scranton that was similar to what the squad will face when it plays at Stevens Institute of Technology Sept. 29 in Hoboken, N.J.
“We showed a lot of character. It took us a while to adjust to playing in such a small space,” Quigg said. “We had to battle a lot. It was a very challenging surface. It was right in the middle of the city so we were boxed in, the crowd was obnoxious and we had a lot of stuff going on.”
While it is still early to tell what track the Bombers’ season will take, sophomore back Stephanie Lucidi said she hopes the squad will save its best playing for when they see these high-powered teams again at the end of the season.
“There’s still a lot of time to improve things and fix issues that come along the way,” Lucidi said. “But we need to peak as we get closer to postseason play to accomplish the goal of getting back to the final four.”