After only losing one non-conference game last year, the beginning of this season has not gone as well, due to some unusual and difficult circumstances.
Despite that, Seattle Pacific University’s women’s soccer team is projected to finish in second place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference by the coaches of GNAC teams.
“Unfortunately in sports, there is no guarantee that you will win when you play well, but it certainly gives you a better chance to get the results you want,” said Head Coach Arby Busey.
The Falcons graduated nine seniors last year from the team which finished third in the conference with a record of eight wins, three losses, and one tie. Consequently, the Falcons have lost the players who tallied the second and third most goals on the team last year.
Busey is still excited about the way the team is performing, crediting the team’s passing and their ability to keep the ball as something that makes them difficult to play against.
“It is very difficult to play as well as we have and not have won to show for it,” said Busey.
The Falcons kicked off their season in Utah against Rogers State, where both teams were ready to get their seasons started. Unfortunately, the officials did not show up to the stadium on time.
Once the game got underway, the Falcons kicked six shots at the net over the next 40 minutes but failed to get any in the back of the net.
Then, to make matters worse, lightning was reported in the area, and the players were forced off the field for 50 minutes. Shortly after play resumed, the Hillcats’ Laurelle Theodore chipped a ball over Falcon goalie Riley Travis’ head and into the net. One-shot. One goal.
The Falcons outshot Rogers State 10-4 in the second half, but all their shots missed the net or were saved by goalie RaVella Fisher.
The next game, against Dixie State, was almost the opposite story.
Midfielder Claire Neder intercepted a pass early in the first half and put the Falcons ahead 1-0. The Red Storm of Dixie State shot as much as they could throughout the game, but few shots were flying anywhere close to Travis. The lead held until the 83rd minute when Whitley Johns scored for the Red Storm.
The game then moved to overtime, where Dixie State’s Sophie Stewart poked the ball into the net to deliver the win. The Falcons were outshot 16-5, and it marked the first time in history that SPU’s women’s soccer team lost its first two games.
Luckily, the Falcons were able to bounce back in the home opener against Biola University. The Falcons outshot Biola 18-6, but their only goal came when Neder converted a penalty kick after the Falcons Sierra Smith was tripped by Biola’s Madyson Brown in the penalty area. The goal proved to be enough as SPU secured a 1-0 win.
Following another 1-0 loss, this time to Sonoma State, the Falcons bounced back again to defeat Point Loma Nazarene University. It was a game of highs and lows for the Falcons, beginning when goalie Riley Travis left the game in the 12th minute due to injury. Kaylie Nelson came on and played well, making three saves. Sierra Smith opened the scoring for the Falcons in the 14th minute, but Point Loma’s Alison Pepper answered back with a goal of her own 17 minutes later.
The score stayed tied until the sixth minute of overtime when the Falcons’ Sophia Chilczuk launched a shot that hit the post and bounced off of the head of Sea Lions’ goalie Emma Hinson to Claire Neder, who headed the ball into the net and secured the Falcons’ second win on the season.
Next, the Falcons took on Cal Poly Pomona.
Mariah Alexander fouled a Bronco player in the 23rd minute, and the referee disqualified Alexander for the rest of the game. Five minutes later, the Broncos Taylor Scott scored a goal.
The Falcons were given hope in the second half after Defender Asia Cayetano sent a free-kick into the box that bounced around the box, off a Broncos player, and into the net to tie the score. Unfortunately, Scott scored again just one minute into overtime, burdening the Falcons with another loss.
Still, head coach Arby Busey is staying positive through it all.
“We played as tough a schedule as any team out there this far, and we have grown through the challenges we’ve faced together,” said Busey.
The Falcons will open conference play on the road, heading to Idaho to take on Northwest Nazarene University Thursday, Sept. 26, and Saint Martin’s University Saturday, Sept. 28.
They then head home to take on Concordia University Oct. 3, before heading back on the road to face Western Oregon University Oct. 5.
“I give a ton of credit to our team for staying the course and continuing to play our style of soccer through the challenging environments that we have been in,” Busey said.
“We feel that the wins will come, we’ll stick to who we are and play our way out the other side of this stretch.”