The women’s soccer team kicked off its season this weekend with two away wins at the the University of California, Santa Cruz’s annual Slugfest. The Panthers defeated the hosts in Santa Cruz 4-1 on Friday, before winning 1-0 against Whitman College Sept. 2.
Despite losing eight seniors, junior defender Megan Kawakami said she thinks there is an advantage to starting the season with fresh, young players.
“We did have a big graduating class and we were losing a lot of key players, but the freshmen this year definitely bring a lot of strengths and new dynamics to the team,” Kawakami said. “So far, everyone has been working really well together and as a unit, despite the fluctuations between classes.”
Last season, the women’s soccer team (9-9-2 last year) placed fourth in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), but knocked out the undefeated in-conference No. 1 seed, Pomona Pitzer (17-1-4 last year), in a shootout. Head coach Courtney Calderon said before the game that despite the large graduating class, the team is confident in itself – maybe more than some people outside the team may be.
“I would say I think it’s a positive thing, because sometimes, when people don’t expect a lot out of your team, because we’re really young,” Calderon said. “They are going to think we’re young, but we’re super talented, so it should be an exciting year. It’s kind of better not to have a lot of expectations and only have it amongst us.”
Sophomore fullback Rachel Lustig echoed that level of confidence, saying she hopes to achieve similar success to last year’s.
“I have high expectations for this season, especially since we are really young and talented,” Lustig said. “I expect that we win SCIAC and advance to the NCAA tournament. (We) made it far last season, so (we are) looking to continue that.”