Rosemary Chesney, asst. sports editor
On Nov. 5 in Danville, Ky., Berry women’s soccer team wrapped up the end of their successful season. The team lost against Rhodes College in the conference semifinals after placing 3rd in the conference for regular season rankings. The team plans to carry the upward trend of improvement into the offseason and next season.
The team’s regular season record was 10-5 and overall record, including playoff games, was 11-6. Along with placing 3rd in their conference for regular season play, the team ranked in the top 10 teams in the region. Head Coach Kathy Brown said that this was the first time in a few years that the team ended the season with double digit wins.
“I’m so proud of the girls,” Brown said. “So much goes into [the season] that people don’t see. People only see wins and losses but not all the work that goes on between that.”
Assistant Coach Stephen Lee said that one of the biggest strengths of the team was the positive, optimistic culture. He said that the team has very little drama with each other and multiple players were recognized in the conference for player of the week and offensive player of the year awards.
“The biggest strength that I’ve seen is just the collectiveness [of the team],” Lee said. “The girls enjoy being together still, which contributes to a winning atmosphere. When it comes to playoff time, it comes down to who wants it more and who enjoys playing together still.”
While there were minimal injuries during the season, one starting player did suffer from an ACL tear. According to Lee, younger players were able to step up and fill her role on the field. Lee said that another challenge for players was balancing off-field responsibilities with on-field playing.
“One of the biggest challenges is not becoming stagnant during the season,” Lee said. “We don’t want to be at a place where we are content with where we are. The girls forgetting what baggage they bring from the academic and personal side while they are playing is also a struggle. We see highs and lows throughout the season based on personal life and academic struggles.”
Lee said that another strength for the team is the team’s depth. Rather than having a few starters, he said, the different layers of lineups are all strong on the team. This strength in depth allowed the team to win crucial games when there were few backups.
“Our culture is that no matter what your role is on the team, you are valuable,” Lee said. “Especially during important games where there’s less subs going on, everyone supporting each other is huge. Getting everyone to buy into the culture is huge.”
Both coaches state that the student leadership on the team has been a huge factor in their season’s success. This season’s team captains include junior center-back Elle Sherrod, senior center-back Anna Salisbury and senior midfield player Vanessa Belanger. The team is graduating about six to seven seniors this year, all of who were recruited by the former head coach before Brown.
“We have fantastic leadership on the team,” Brown said. “[Leadership] on the team is one of the biggest parts of our success, and our team captains are doing a great job at setting the tone for younger ones.”
Both coaches said that they expect to continue to grow in their soccer program next season. Lee said that they are looking at a good recruiting class for the next couple of years into the future and hope to move from 3rd in the conference to 2nd or 1st next season. With good recruiting and continued team growth, Lee said he hopes that they host the conference tournament next year as regular season champions.