By Kirsten Nelson
The Grinnell women’s soccer team struggled early in the season, losing four games and tying one. In fact, the Pioneers did not score in any of their first five games.
“It’s a mental block,” said Izzie Pfeiffer ’16. “We just need to play our game out there and not over-think it.”
“We were playing well, and I really do think we were the better team on the field, we just couldn’t find a way to score in those early games,” Captain Nicole Sipfle ’13 said.
Sipfle was named to the 2011 All-Midwest Conference Women’s Soccer first team, after being an honorable mention selection in 2010.
Though the team experienced some setbacks early, the Pioneers fought hard to pull out a 1-0 win over the talented Carroll University Pioneers last week, after the seventh minute goal by Elle Silverman ’15. Because Carroll is the defending Midwest Conference champion, the win is very important to the team’s post-season chances, and team morale. Not only did the team score its first goal of the season against a formidable opponent, but the victory gave head coach Heather Benning ’96, her 150th career win, spread across her now 14 years of coaching Grinnell women’s soccer.
Despite the recent success, however, the team has a long season ahead of them, and no one is ready to let the pressure off.
“Within the Midwest Conference, our next hardest match after Carroll will be St. Norbert, who also made it to the conference tournament last year,” Sipfle said. “I think our games this year will be closer in score than last year, but if we keep working hard, I think we can win them.”
The Pioneers are 1-1-0 in the Midwest Conference so far this season.
This year’s team has a larger number of contributing first years than in years past. This is partially due to a large and talented incoming class of players, and partially due to the persistent injuries plaguing the team’s normal traveling line-up. The seven first years who have consistently travelled to away games have seen significant minutes due to injuries among the more experienced players.
“I don’t think the injuries are affecting our record,” Sipfle said. “The experience on the field is down, but it’s a deep team, and that gives us strength.”
The deep bench also motivates players to give their all, when they get the chance to see the field.
“You work hard while you’re in the game, because you know there is another girl on that bench who could play just as hard,” said Katy Oldach ’16. “We give 100 percent as a team.”
“It’s a great group of girls, we all really want each other to succeed,” Pfeiffer said.
This season, the goal for the team is the same as the last; a strong season, and a strong finish.
“I definitely think its still possible for us to host conference this year. Ideally, we could win conference and go to nationals,” said Sipfle.
The Grinnell women’s soccer team returns home this Saturday, September 22nd at 11:00 a.m. vs. Illinois College.