By Sam Hildebrandt
In the last week, the men’s and women’s soccer teams have played two inaugural games apiece, with the men losing both games and the women earning a 1-0 loss and an emphatic 11-0 win.
Men’s soccer coach, Brian Jaworski, attributed their Saturday, August 31, loss against Coe College in part due to inconsistent refereeing, a lack of communication and the sweltering heat created by the host’s turf. One of the team’s goals was disallowed by what Jaworski regards as a dubious offside call.
Another problem was consistency across the halves.
“You’ve got to play the 38th minute just as hard as you play the 89th minute,” said Jaworski, noting that the team managed to scramble back into form towards the end of the match.
So goes the game of soccer, but the girls’ team has certainly seen the sunnier side of the temperamental sport.
Despite a loss last Friday, August 30, to Dubuque University, the team rallied to an unbelievable 11-0 final score in their game against Blackburn College the following day. Nine different Pioneers found the back of the net, including Patty Murphy-Geiss ’14 and Nora Sahel ’17, who scored two goals apiece.
“I loved seeing nine different women score goals!” said head coach Heather Benning, who is in her 16th season with the team.
With two losses behind the team there’s still work to be done on Coach Jaworski’s end. However, Jaworski isn’t taking those losses as bad omens, but as a lesson for both the players and himself.
Jaworski also identified communication errors as a major issue for the men’s team, highlighting a miscommunication between goalkeeper Isaiah Tyree ’15 and captain/defender Jerry Brown ’14, whose collision resulted in an easy goal for Central College after a cross.
Jaworski made sure to point out, however, that the lack of communication did not stem from a lack of chemistry.
“We know what happened. It’s fine in the bigger picture as long as it doesn’t happen on September 21, and it shouldn’t happen as early as Friday night,” Jaworski said, referring to the all-important home conference opener against Lake Forest as well the upcoming game away at Augustana College.
Jaworski has instituted an aggressive 3-5-2 system, which translates to three defenders, five midfielders of various depths and two forwards.
His vision is unrealized but clear.
“We have a lot of players that can control the ball. We have a lot of players that can see the field. We have a lot of players that can keep possession as a team,” Jaworski said. “[But] we’re not as deep with individual defensive players.”
Similarly, Elle Silverman ’15 described the women’s team as being “stacked in forward positions.”
It should come as no surprise then that the girls play a similar 3-5-2 system that morphs into a 3-4-3 while on offense.
Unlike Jaworski’s team, which has played a version of this system for some time, the girls’ team is new to the 3-5-2, which puts pressure on an already injured defense.
Pauline Zheng ’14 acknowledged that injuries to defensive players during the preseason influenced this new tactical choice. However, Silverman stressed the flexibility of the women’s team and its ability to adapt to the new system.
“People are pretty good at being flexible,” Silverman said.
Although they play similar systems that pack the midfield, the men’s and women’s teams differ in their ambitions for the season.
“Identify the demands of each position on the field and then [get] the guys to buy into what those demands are. Then, once they understand the demands of that position and are giving the effort of what’s required of that position, we’re able to now start to form clearer roles for that particular person,” Jaworski said.
Silverman’s strategy was slightly more straightforward.
“Win. Host. Win!” Silverman said, referring to the goal of winning the conference, hosting the conference tournament and finally winning said tournament on home turf.
The stars may be aligned for the women’s team to reach this goal, despite injuries in the defense, and the team will go into their upcoming home game against Principia College on Saturday September 7 with the knowledge that they are a prodigious scoring threat.
“We’re really fit this year,” Zheng said, as she also points to their track record of success over the past few years, not to mention the trouncing of Blackburn.
Coach Benning echoed her players’ enthusiasm, noting a strong tradition of success within the women’s soccer team. She considers “Win, Host, Win!” a reasonable goal.
Although on different trajectories at this time, both teams share a common vision of winning their conference opener against Lake Forest on September 21.