DYLAN FOREMAN; Sports Editor; firstname.lastname@example.org
If you knew at the beginning of last season that the Pacific Lutheran University women’s soccer team would be hindered by four key player season-ending injuries, you might have thought the team would, at the very least, lose a step or two.
If you realized that two of those four included seniors Kaylie Rozell–a two-time offensive MVP on the team, and Lauren Larson–leading goal scorer three years running, it seemed they were doomed from the start.
Head coach Seth Spidahl and his team remained unwavered.
Instead of accepting the fact that their season was more than likely going to fall short of their expectations, they obliterated their original goals and nearly won conference on the heels of a gritty, veteran defense and a determined and exciting-to-watch offense that dominated its schedule.
Fast forward to now.
For the most part, their string of defensive specialists have returned with seniors Kelly White, Lena Moreno, junior Megan Anderson and senior academic All-American Takara Mitsui at goalkeeper.
On offense, their previous two best offensive weapons, Rozell and Larson, are back in the mix and haven’t skipped a beat since both have recovered from last year’s knee injuries. Along with the dynamic pair, the Lutes return their potent offensive weapons that took the Northwest Conference by storm last season: current juniors Machaela Graddy, Kelsey Hathaway, Taylor Lunde and Hailey Smoot.
“I was really proud of Machaela and Taylor to step up last year when we missed those two,” Spidahl expressed. “Certainly layering all of them together, I’m very lucky.”
Besides Rozell and Larson, they have two newer editions that have proved early on in the season that their past experiences and talent will propel the Lutes even further on their stacked lineup.
Their defense gained another crucial piece of the defensive puzzle to add to their already stellar unit, a Division I transfer from Portland State University, sophomore Rachel Ross who brings aggressive and powerful play to the game.
Their offense also acquired an excellent complement to the Lute’s already impressive list of offensive talent in their other Division I transfer from Washington State University, Liz Griffith. While she is not the biggest person on the field, she makes up for it excellent ball skills and scoring ability.
“I’m very blessed to have four all-conference forwards in Kaylie, Lauren, Taylor and Mach and certainly when you add in new players like sophomore Liz Griffith who can impact the game, it makes it harder for the other team to key in on one player,” Spidahl stated. “Liz has really meshed in well as a sophomore because she has such a good IQ as a soccer player.”
Even first-year Leah Magee has had the opportunity to contribute to the sea of scoring as she made her mark in Texas after netting the game-winning goal in their second game.
With all the returners and new additions, it may seem like with so much talent on the field at once, it would be hard produce positive outcomes. However, each individual meshes perfectly with Spidahl’s consistent, well-oiled machine. So far in the season, no one member of the team has scored more than one goal, as the players have no problem getting the assist or setting one of their teammates up instead of pursuing their own ambitions and glory. That is the exciting epitome of the team among the players and coaching staff.
Because of their strong start and high expectations due to the volume and depth, the Lutes have their eyes set on post-season action, something that has eluded them in past years. ◼︎