Women's soccer kicks-off
By Mike Sikorski
Along with Frosh, classes and the occasional hangover, comes another season for the Western women's soccer team.
Although the Mustangs finished first in the OUIAA West, they could not beat a resilient Laurier squad in the division semifinals, losing in a dramatic overtime shootout. And while Western will have some tough competition biting at Laurier's heels this year, the team's head coach Sheri Fowler expects the Mustangs to bounce back without hesitation.
"Western consistently has had a strong women's soccer team," Fowler said. "Even the weakest squads are up when they play us."
This proved true Sept. 6, as Western played to a disappointing 1-1 tie at Brock. Although Brock is far from a weak team, Fowler knows they're a team Western should have beaten.
"We played well for 60 out of 90 minutes," she said. "We had trouble clearing the ball and Brock was able to capitalize on that."
Western did have some stellar moments highlighted in a beautiful header by Carmyn Aleshka on a perfectly placed cross by Julie Valvasori.
"Carmyn has gone from getting little playing time last season to starting this year," Fowler said.
Last year's team captain Sharon Simms helped the Mustangs to a second place finish in the OWIAA west division. They hoped to improve on that standing this season.
Looking past the tie, the Mustangs' had better luck demolishing the competition at the Old Four Tournament, besting the host Queens squad 4-2 and destroying Toronto 7-0.
Those matches showed that Western has no shortage of offensive firepower. Making quick work of the teams from the Eastern division in the Old Four Tournament however, also shows that the real obstacles to winning a national title are in the Mustang's own division.
Another factor giving the Mustangs reason to be optimistic about the team's chances this year is the large number of returning players 19 to be exact, including provincial all-star Erin Howell who is back after sitting out last season with an injury.
"We're really solid right across the field from our attack right through our mid-field, defense and keepers," Fowler said, adding depth is one of the team's strong suits and may make a difference further down the road, come play-off time.
The team will look for leadership from co-captains Sara Nathanson and Beth Washburn, who are both looking to get another shot to advance to the CIAU finals.
"There's no reason this team shouldn't make it to the CIAUs," Nathanson said. "But we have to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves and just take things one step at a time."
Fowler stressed that keeping as many players healthy as possible will be crucial in a division that is so evenly matched. "The season is short and intense and injuries can play a big factor," he said. "It's difficult to predict who will be in the running, because any team could win on any given day depending on the chemistry they have together."
The team will have its work cut out for it this coming weekend as it plays host to McMaster on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Laurier on Sunday at 1 p.m.