Playing college athletics is no easy task. No matter the sport, every team requires almost year-round practice, leading up to the highly anticipated games. Because of the consistent nature of sports, injuries are quite common and almost inevitable- whether it is on the field, turf, court, or rink. When these injuries befall on a team’s star players, it can often be difficult for a team to maintain its winning ways. Sometimes though, the team has just enough players that fill unexpected roles and can carry the team through adversity. That is exactly what is happened with the Muhlenberg Mules women’s soccer team this fall.
To date, the Mules have started the 2017 season with a 2-4-2 record. Not exactly spectacular on paper, but very impressive when considering what the team has dealt with in less than a month of regular season play. Star players Makenzie O’Brien ’19, Danni Steigerwald ’20 and Casarah Morales ’20 have all missed chunks of playing time this month due to a range of injuries.
Because each of these student-athletes has proven to be exceptional for the Mules women’s soccer team, the team had to slightly change its game plan with new players taking the field. Despite this minor setback, the team still was able to keep its positive mindset, said Carly DeNigris ’18.
“Due to the injuries to some of our starting players, it has been an adjustment for our team. I would say that our game plan is still the same, and that our mindset is still to come out against each team and play hard. With the injuries, some players have been shifted into new positions, but I think as a team we have been able to adjust to this as a whole and really support each other in our new roles on the field,” said the senior midfielder.
Makenzie O’Brien ’19, who was injured for much of September, echoed similar sentiments to those of her teammate.
“Other than the positional changes there really has not been a change of plans on our team. We are still trying to incorporate different players in the final third of the field when we are trying to score such as our outside backs, our center mid fielders and sometimes our center backs. Our overall goal as a team is to be as big of an offensive threat as possible,” said O’Brien.
Although players such as O’Brien have spent much of this season on the sideline, they still have managed to make their presence felt from off the field. O’Brien specifically has talked to some of the younger players that have suddenly been given an increased amount of playing time.
“I specifically have tried to encourage Sarah Hunter because she was playing my position (outside back) for the majority of the time that I was out with my sprained ankle. I have encouraged her to be an offensive threat by making runs up the side lines while our forwards and center mid fielders have the ball. I have told her to just be patient when defending an opposing player and to not jump into a tackle and let the girl just dribble around her. Lastly, I have told her that I believe in her and that if she works hard enough she can make a huge impact on the field from the position,” said O’Brien.
Clearly this is a time that has gone through many changes in personnel in such a short span of time. But these unfortunate circumstances have not been detrimental to the demeanor of this strong-willed team. Danni Steigerwald ’20, who has played through this season without falling victim to the injury bug, has also witnessed the impact of her teammates while they’ve been off the playing field.
“Although Danni, Casarah, and Makenzie have not been on the field with us for the past few games, they still contribute to our team off the field, giving direction to the players who have stepped up into their positions. This has enabled us to hold our own against tough conference opponents, including Franklin and Marshall,” said Steigerwald.
This past weekend, the Mules played to a 1-1 tie against Dickinson College. Although the team was unable to earn a victory, the game was significant for those injured players returning to the lineup once again. Steigerwald was very happy with how the team played in this contest.
“I was actually able to play in this game and the best thing I can say we did was not give up. We battled our hearts out for 110 minutes. Regardless of the outcome, it’s great to see everyone wanting to win,” said the sophomore forward.
In O’Brien’s first match back as well, she was very proud with her team played against a competitive Dickinson roster.
“I thought we finally were an offensive threat and we were not just playing defense for the entire game. Izzy Schwartz played her best game all season and did an amazing job capitalizing on a foul that I drew on Dickinson’s defense. By finally creating a significant amount of shots (8) by our offense, I think it gave our defense a break at times which was great because in many of our previous games they were exhausted from constantly defending. In order for us to continue to compete with teams in our conference in the future we are going to need to step up on offense and create goal scoring opportunities,” said O’Brien.
The Mules women’s soccer team continues its season next week when it takes on Bryn Mawr at Varsity Field in Allentown, Pennsylvania.