Most athletes like to try to lessen the blow of a loss. They focus on positives and find silver linings from games when there aren’t really any to be found, and sometimes, when they do acknowledge their problems, they aren’t actually the ones that cause their losses.
This is the case for women’s soccer. The team has lost three straight games in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), in which they have been outscored 7-2. The team is now sitting in seventh place out of eight teams in the conference. Yes, it’s early, and yes, there is plenty of time to address the issues that may have contributed to this poor run. But what’s concerning is the lack of acknowledgement of how dangerous this situation is and where the issues lie.
On Sept. 20, Chapman lost 3-1 for the second straight game, with the first two goals coming against them in the opening 20 minutes. The second goal was an own goal header. At this point, alarm bells should be ringing. Being outscored 6-2 over the course of two games is a sign of a problem. It’s not the end of the world – it’s Division III. Every team has problems, but you acknowledge and then address them.
Instead, the team looked for silver linings. Junior defender Megan Kawakami said about the own goal, “Mistakes happen and it was an unfortunate one, but it wasn’t detrimental.” That’s just not true. Going down 2-0 within the first 20 minutes of a game is an incredibly hard hole to climb out of, especially when the second goal comes in the demoralizing fashion of your own teammate scoring it. Of course that’s detrimental.
The problem with that statement isn’t that “mistakes happen.” Miscommunications happen at the highest level of professional athletics, so to expect that they won’t happen at Chapman is absurd. But acknowledging that there was a miscommunication that made winning extremely difficult is an awareness the team needs to have.
Sophomore midfielder Rachel Lustig said at the start of the season, “I expect that we win SCIAC and advance to the NCAA tournament.”
Lustig, senior midfielder Emily Watts and senior defender Ashley Carney have all said that Chapman needs to improve at scoring goals, and it clearly does, but that won’t matter unless Chapman stops putting itself in early holes. In the past three games, Chapman has conceded five goals within the first 30 minutes of each game. Even in its last win against Pomona-Pitzer Sept. 13, Chapman conceded a goal less than 19 minutes into the game.
The team is struggling to score goals, but its real problem is preventing other teams from scoring first, and scoring early. In Chapman’s games this season, the team that has scored first has won seven out of eight games. Over the team’s last five seasons, the team that scored first has won 75 out of 85 times – or 88 percent. Needless to say, scoring the first goal is crucial.
There doesn’t always need to be a “positive.” Sometimes teams lose badly and make embarrassing mistakes. That is a natural part of the game. But what differentiates a good team from a championship contender – which Chapman has said it intends to be – is its ability to recognize its mistakes, identify the areas that are causing it to lose games, and consciously work on those areas so it doesn’t make the same mistakes again.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect years for Megan Kawakami, Ashley Carney and Emily Watts. This information has been corrected.