Wheaton determined not to watch NCAA soccer tourney from sidelines again
The Wheaton College women’s soccer team isn't used to not being invited to the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Tournament, and it intends to not let it happen again.
Despite claiming a share of the College Conference Of Illinois And Wisconsin (CCIW) championship last year, the Thunder didn’t make it to the tournament, as the conference’s spot went to Illinois Wesleyan, the other co-conference champion. It was the first time in 19 years that Wheaton failed to make a postseason appearance.
"We will be better than last year in every area of the field, so I hope that translates into more wins," head coach Pete Felske said in a press release. “The influx of young talent has put every player at every position in a competitive situation."
Felske said the team has made several improvements that should boost its chances of returning to the tournament.
“We have strengthened the goalkeeping, the back line, the midfield,” he said in the release. “Therefore, I am confident that we will be less susceptible in the back and that we will be able to control in the midfield more than we did last year. Hopefully, the greater amount of possession time will lead to more opportunities to score goals."
The Thunder will witness a battle for the starting goalkeeper spot between last year’s starter, Kathryn McGregor, and incoming freshman Madison Lee. McGregor started all 20 games for Wheaton last season and was named to CCIW second team.
However, last year was McGregor's first in goal, and she has less experience there than Lee.
“Madison may come in with a better goalkeeping history, training and technical ability, but Mac's competitive spirit is something you can't dismiss," Felske said. “I am excited for how those two will compete to make each other and the team better."
Felske said he is also looking forward to the Thunder having a strong midfield, which he says is full of talented players.
“The midfield is an area we are really excited about," he said. "Madison Peebles, Bailey Wolf, Anna Saunders, Sammy Nishiyama, Suzanne Kimble and Hannah Cochrum are experienced and strong technical players. If you add Carney Blake and Emma Fisler, we should be able to negate negative plays with our focus on increased possession."
Saunders was one of the key players in the midfield last season and led the Thunder with eight assists. She also scored a goal and was voted the team’s offensive player of the year.
Offensively, the Thunder will be led by Morgan Whitman, the top scorer from last season with six goals and two assists. Another key player for Wheaton could be Sarah Gencarella, who scored two goals and had two assists as a freshman.
The Thunder will open their season in early September against Whitworth University and begin conference play on Sept. 30 against North Park University. Wheaton’s regular season will end on Oct. 28 against Hope College. The conference tournament will kick off on Nov. 1.
To view the team’s full schedule and to find out more about the upcoming year, visit www.athletics.wheaton.edu.
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