Two goals. That’s the total number of shots sophomore business administration major and women’s soccer goalkeeper Kelsey Bland has allowed to hit her net across five games thus far in the team’s current season.
“It’s not an easy thing to do,” Bland said of the low number of goals she’s allowed. “But it takes the whole team to defend. When the team shuts them out, it’s a good feeling all around on the defense.”
As the anchor of her team’s defense, Bland was named the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) athlete of the week on Sept. 9. But once again, she deferred credit to the players’ ability to work together.
“It was fun,” Bland said about winning the award. “You can’t do that without your team pushing you to get better – there was a lot of support from everyone.”
While Bland may credit her teammates for her success, midfielder Jessie Roux said Bland’s work ethic and leadership skills are what makes them click.
“She has stepped it up this year, becoming a leader on and off the field,” said Roux, a sophomore software engineering major. “She puts in the time on her own and stays after practice. She wants everyone to get better and if there is a problem in the locker room, she’ll step in to get it resolved.”
Bland and Roux have a history of playing together, as they were on the same club team – the So Cal Blues – during their high school years in San Clemente and Santa Margarita respectively.
“Kelsey’s really funny and kind of loud, a great person to be around,” Roux said. “But when it’s game time, she knows how to shut it down and get everyone locked in.”
Bland enjoyed those high school soccer games, but views her college career as a completely different animal. She recalled that once she came to Chapman, she knew playing soccer would require more of her because of its competitive level of play.
“It takes more of a mental commitment and drive once you get here,” Bland said. “The whole concept of representing your whole university and your family, which is your team, makes it more fun to win.”
There’s a sense of community in the locker room for the Chapman women’s soccer team and the team’s chemistry has spearheaded the Panthers jumping out to a 4-0-1 record at the start of this fall season.
From a combination of team bonding activities, victories and celebratory pasta dinners, the team’s been able to click off the field. Those connections improve transparency when the players discuss the team’s cohesiveness, Bland said.
“We have team goals written out for each practice and game,” she said. “Some things we’re talking about a lot are giving each other constructive criticism and being able to handle our emotions and use them tactically as we play.”
Makenna Henry, the team’s new goalkeeper coach since the start of this season, has played a large part in promoting that mental commitment this season. Henry integrated multiple team bonding activities into their workout regiment, including games such as “knee tag” and “treasure map” – a game that requires players to make their way through a maze of cones using a pattern of movement – which allows the team to think about chemistry.
“The point of these games are to see the themes of working together to achieve a common goal,” Henry said. “Your willingness to sacrifice your body in order to protect something you care about, and at a soccer level, how hard are we going to work to keep possession.”
With the team forming into one strong unit, the Panthers feel like they’ll be able to make a deep playoff run and potentially win the SCIAC conference title in early November.
“If we can grow our relationships with our teammates and grind at practice, I know we can achieve success,” Roux said.