Sports & Outdoors

Women’s soccer prepares for 2019 after championship 2018 season

The women’s soccer team huddles during the 2018 season — Photo courtesy of Logger Athletics

Puget Sound women’s soccer had a disappointing finish to an otherwise fantastic fall season. The team looks forward to next fall with great ambition.

“I can speak for the team when I say that our goal is [to] be national champs,” sophomore Jasmine Chapman said.

Success is no stranger to this squad. Their 2018 campaign saw them finish top of the Northwest Conference (NWC) for the second time in the last four seasons. This achievement also saw the program earn its 16th NWC title since the turn of the century, proof that the Loggers are a force to be reckoned with.

“Going into next season we have a target on our backs for the rest of conference,” Chapman said.

Junior Gabbie Berg, the conference’s top goal scorer, reiterated the reputation for dominance that Puget Sound has earned in the NWC: “We find a way to get things done no matter the circumstance and that mentality is hard to play against.”

The title was clinched under such circumstances in the last game of the regular season when the Loggers needed a win against Linfield. With 75 minutes gone and facing a two-goal deficit, Puget Sound needed a miracle. The dramatic comeback was sparked by Berg in the 76th minute and was finished off by senior Lura Morton with goals in the 78th and 86th minutes.

“A late comeback from two goals down doesn’t always happen,” Head Coach Joseph Vari said. “The margin for a title can be that thin.”

Despite the team’s success in the conference, their season ended with a 3-0 defeat to Hardin-Simmons in the first round of the NCAA Championships, hardly the ideal ending to the 2018 season.

“We ended our season unsatisfied,” Chapman said. “But I believe we will use our passion and desire to challenge each other in the season moving forward.”

Berg echoed this desire for improvement: “I’m motivated because I know the level of talent my teammates and I have, and I’m not satisfied with how our post-season ended.”

Along with a disappointing result, the conclusion to last season came with the harsh reality that the team will be without 12 seniors who graduate in May.

“Our biggest challenge will be finding out how we can lead and fill roles this coming season,” Berg said. “We graduated 12 seniors who all had major roles and voices on the team.”

“We all learned so much from the senior leaders,” Chapman said. “I personally hope to honor them by incorporating what they have taught us on and off the field.”

Coach Vari will miss this group of seniors but is optimistic about the program’s future nonetheless: “They have been the nucleus of the program for the last three years and being without them will be a challenge. Luckily, our strength will be the players that we have returning,” Vari said. “We’ll have a new way of doing things, but our core values will not change.”

Vari credited much of his team’s success to these core values: “Basically we ask our student-athletes to ask themselves: ‘Is what I’m currently doing helping me obtain my goals?’ If the answer is yes, continue doing that. If it is no, we need to reevaluate what we are doing.”

According to the third-year coach, his team takes this advice to heart, always striving for improvement.

“I think that our success has come from recruiting very talented and driven student-athletes,” Vari said.

The women’s soccer program is evidently full of motivated personnel, both on and off the pitch. Goalkeeper Jamie Lange earned the NWC Defensive Player of the Year Award as well as an academic honor, Kylee Roath was named First-year of the Year and Vari earned the Coach of the Year title.

Given all of this recent success, one might wonder if there is a danger of complacency in the team. Both Vari and Berg answered this question with authority.

“I never want my teammates or myself feeling comfortable,” Berg said.

Vari praised his players for their continuous lack of complacency, especially during the off-season when players do the vast majority of their work independently.

“That’s when we have to ask the most of our athletes, and we have been lucky with our group that has embraced that,” Vari said. “It’s also a testament to the type of students that we get at UPS. Loggers do more.”

All in all, it is crystal clear that Puget Sound women’s soccer will be a group to watch in the coming years. They will return to the pitch in fall 2019 to fight for their 17th Conference title of the millennium, and much more.