It was not the storybook ending the Elizabethtown College’s women’s soccer team had in mind, but looking back on the season, they have a lot to be proud of. The 2013 team’s 12 wins, which included a 1-0 victory over then-seventh ranked Misericordia University, were the most they had since 2008. The Blue Jays finished the season ranked sixth in the Mid-Atlantic Region, after enduring one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the region.
“Our season started out rough, losing our first three games, but then things did a complete 180. We came out and won the next four games, and in the end had an overall record of 12-8 and in conference 7-2,” sophomore Lauren Fredericks said. “We came together as a team, set goals and then accomplished most of them.”
The team’s best accomplishment came as a pleasant surprise. Etown earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, their first appearance over the last six seasons.
“[A bid to the tournament] was a goal on our list, and to finally check that off was an amazing feeling,” Fredericks said. “We were successful as a team this season and we really hope to grow from here.”
Saturday’s first round game against first-time qualifier Trinity (Conn.) forced the young Blue Jays to make many defensive plays. In the first half, the Bantams recorded 10 shots but could not find the back of the net against sophomore goalkeeper Dana Robidoux. Robidoux finished the first half with three saves and five for the game.
Sophomore Lauren Berry finished with a game-high six shots, but only one was on goal. Berry’s shot in the 27th minute proved to be the Blue Jays best scoring opportunity, but Trinity goalie Monica DiFiori made the save.
After a scoreless first half, the Bantams pressure finally paid off as Alexa Menard gave Trinity a 1-0 lead with her goal in the 56th minute. Just 10 minutes later, Trinity thought they had themselves a two goal lead as Karyn Barrett snuck one passed Robidoux, but the Blue Jays caught a break as the referee called her offside.
The Blue Jays were never able to register good scoring chances against the Bantams’ defense as they finished with just two shots on goal for the entire 90 minutes.
In the 81st minute, Rachel Zanko essentially put the game away with her goal to give Trinity a 2-0 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game. However, the Blue Jays refused to give up as sophomore Deanna Slater found senior Alyssa Koplin for Etown’s first NCAA Tournament goal since 2006.
With just under a minute to go in the Blue Jays’ season, first-year Callie McClanahan had two shots go wide of the goal as Trinity hung on for the 2-1 victory in the first-round game.
“Looking back on our season, I feel that it went pretty well,” Berry said. “We definitely could have done better at times, but overall, the season went well and making it to the NCAA tournament was a huge accomplishment.”
The Blue Jays will return an incredible 19 players from their 22-player roster, losing seniors Koplin, Amanda Fisher and Alex Topa. Etown’s top seven point-getters will be back next season, including Berry who led the team with 16 goals.
“Our expectations for the 2014 season are going to be pretty high. However, switching conferences will definitely be a change since we won’t know what to expect coming into the games,” Berry said. “We are very lucky though to have so many returning players and the season should be a very good one.”
The team will return in 2014 poised to attain some of the goals they set out to reach this season but fell short.
“Having 19 girls returning is awesome. We were a young team this year and we went far. Just imagine where we can end up with a solid 19 girls returning and the addition of some first-years,” Fredericks said. “We made it far this year and plan to only go further next year.”