Women’s soccer strives to reach playoff goals

Whether it is on the field, in the classroom or during extracurricular activities, the players on Guilford’s College’s Women’s soccer team are scoring big.

This year, the team is predominantly first-years and sophomores.

“We lost a lot of people due to injuries and family stuff and things like that, but I’m looking forward to playing with the freshmen and developing new team dynamics,” said sophomore midfielder Lauren Culler.

In fact, seven first-years will see playing time on the soccer field this season.

“(Head coach Michael Shenigo) did a really great job of recruiting this year, and we have a really good sophomore class as well from last year,” said sophomore defender and forward Gabriela Silva. “The lineup seems really great, and all the girls just have a bunch of energy. I feel like we have a great season ahead of us.”

Over the last few years, the team has been continuing to improve. Their last season was the best since 2011.

“We were tied for eighth,” said Shenigo. “If we had finished eighth, that would’ve given us the playoffs, but we lost the head-to-head, so unfortunately, we didn’t get to make it last year.

“Especially for the seniors and juniors who have been a part of the program and watched it develop, I think they really, really want to get into the conference tournament. It’s definitely feasible.”

This is why many of the women are looking forward to the games this year, particularly a possible shot at the playoffs.

“Hopefully, we’ll make it to playoffs this year,” said Culler. “I’m looking forward to that because we’ve been progressing these past few years and we haven’t made it yet.”

But home games also have a large appeal.

“I didn’t used to be as confident in my playing,” said first-year defender Camille Franks. “At my high school, people would ask, ‘When’s your game?’ and I would say, ‘I don’t know; I don’t have games.’  But now I’m very confident in my playing, so I’m just really excited for all my friends that I’ve met since I’ve been here to come out and support me.”

The women won their first game last Saturday against William Peace University.

“This is a very good start to our season,” said sophomore forward Juliana Evans-Anfom.  “There are some things that need to be cleaned up as one would expect for a first game, but if we continue to work in practice, these hiccups will eventually cease to exist. If we alleviate these problems, our season will be a successful one.”

Though there are still many things to work on, starting the season with a win is always a good sign.

“I thought we played well for it being the first game,” said Shenigo. “There are definitely some things we need to fix, but I think, overall, to get a win, to get a couple goals: that’s always a positive.”

Although the student-athletes are busy playing and practicing for the first few games of the soccer season, they are also learning to balance sports, school and other activities.

“This year I’m an RA, so having that responsibility on top of soccer has kind of been challenging, but it works out somehow,” said sophomore goalkeeper Maggie Albert. “It’s just prioritizing, making sure that, in your free time, you get some work done instead of watching Netflix.”

It can be challenging to balance a sport with academics, but first-year defensive back Cheyenne Wright says that going to a Division III college helps.

“You get more of a sense of both,” said Wright. “You’re definitely a student athlete, not just an athlete.”

Above all, they are excited to play soccer, win some games and make friends.

“We’re at the beginning, so we’re all just trying to get used to one another and understand each other,” said Franks. “Over time, we’re going to really enjoy one another and get to know each other really well.

“The soccer is really good, really fun, really competitive. That’s what I really like

about it. I love playing.”

The first home game will be this Friday, Sept. 9 at 4 p.m. against Salem College.