Sports

Rookies instill women’s soccer with talent, energy

Without star player Cross ’15, Bruno needs consistent contributions from Waldman ’18, rest of offense

By
Sports Editor
Friday, September 11, 2015

Despite losing five key starters to graduation, the women’s soccer team is confident it can rebound from 2014’s last-place conference record of 1-4-2. The team (1-1) will fill the holes in its roster with a talented first-year class and revitalized team chemistry. And when a coach like Phil Pincince is holding the reigns, a surge to the top is never out of reach.

Pincince is the longest-tenured active women’s soccer coach in the NCAA, having completed his 38th season as the Bears’ head coach last year. But 2015 will be his last ride with the team, as he announced last week that he will be retiring at the end of the season.

“He is the type of coach that really cares about the well-being of his players,” said captain Sarah Moody ’16. “That’s hard to find in a Division I coach. We’re all really sad to see him go, but I’m so glad we have him for this last season.”

“It’s inspiring playing for Phil,” said Mikela Waldman ’18. “He’s contributed so much, not just to Brown soccer, but to all of NCAA women’s soccer. It’s so helpful to have his perspective from so many years of coaching.”

Pincince has experience bouncing back from rocky patches. Over his 38-year career, the Bears have finished seventh or worse in the Ivy League just eight times, including last year. In the seasons following a bottom-two finish, Pincince’s teams have fought back to earn third place four times. Only once has the team’s record fallen further the next season.

This season, Pincince will be tasked with replacing five starters, including Chloe Cross ’15, who led Bruno in goals and points in each of the last three seasons. In the past, the team often relied on Cross to manufacture goals when the offense was sputtering, Waldman said.

“That worked for us last season,” Waldman said. “But this year, we have to get production from all parts of the offense, which I think we’ve already seen has helped us find more creative and diverse ways of attacking, instead of just getting the ball to Chloe.”

After finishing second in points and goals behind Cross and leading the team in assists last season, Waldman will likely assume an even larger role in the offense. In the Bears’ season opener against St. John’s (5-1) last weekend, the sophomore broke the Red Storm’s four-game shutout streak by capitalizing on a mishit clearance by goalkeeper Diana Poulin. She then assisted on an Amanda Lane ’19 goal that sealed a 2-1 win for the Bears.

Lane is not the only first-year who has been contributing to the team. Megan Grant ’19 started on the backline against St John’s, and Christine Etzel ’19 played the entire game in net, saving five shots and giving up just one goal.

“The freshmen have done a really good job of coming in and bringing a really high intensity and good mentality to the team,” Waldman said. “It’s hard to know what the lineup will be before it’s fully fleshed out, but I could see a lot of freshmen contributing a lot this season.”

The first-years’ impact on the team was felt in the squad’s second game of the season against Delaware (3-3). Bruno was forced to play without its rookies, who could not travel to the game because of orientation. The Blue Hens routed the depleted Bears, 6-1.

Goalkeeper Rylee Shumway ’18, in her second-career start, made a career-high nine saves in the losing effort. Shumway and Etzel are both competing to lock down the starting spot in net, and the battle has been tight, Moody said.

“They are both very athletic,” Moody said. “They are extremely reliable and both have a lot to offer. It’s really up to Phil and the rest of the coaching staff whether one starts over the other or if they split time. We love having both of them back there.”

The inexperience of the team’s goalie will be offset by other members of the backline. Moody has started 37 games in her career at Brown and will anchor the team whether playing midfield or defense, while returning starters Jaclyn Alois ’17, Maclaine Lehan ’18 and Hogan Vivier ’16 will provide additional experience and stability to the defense.

Like every team in the conference, the Bears’ goal is to win the Ivy League. But after a rough finish last year, the players will work on remaining positive, even in the face of defeat, Moody said.

“What’s important to us is to keep believing that we can be successful and win,” Moody said. “Sometimes it’s easy to get into a rut after a tough game or a tough loss. This year, we just want to keep a positive attitude and keep believing that we can do well throughout the whole season.”

“It’s going to really come down to our mentality this season,” Waldman said. “Everyone is invested in the program. … We’re all on board, so I think it’s going to be a really good season.”