Returning for the fall semester and its accompanying sports season might be too far away for some students to think about with the summer fast approaching. But for the Muhlenberg women’s soccer team, they are inching closer and closer to their fall return. The team, however, had an abysmal 2021 campaign, a 3-13-1 record including a 1-9 in-conference record, resulting in the Mules being tied with Ursinus College for dead last for winning percentage .100 in the Centennial Conference. With a new season comes an opportunity to shed off the narratives held onto from the season before, and the Mules will look to march forward.
The spring semester offered up a chance for the team to get back to the grindstone, put their heads down and work on their craft. The offseason work load consisted of three to four practices a week and a weight room program with strength coaches.
Midfielder Casie Burke ‘24 described Head Coach Dave Weitzman’s simple but imperative goal for the team this spring. “Practice like professionals and to put the work in during the offseason,” she said. Burke also had some personal goals for herself as well. Her main goal is to “improve on my foot skills along with my shot accuracy.”
Improving physical skills and techniques can make a good player, but working on the mental side can create a great one. Returning captain Emily DeAngelo ‘23 wants to master the latter, “[What] I really wanted to focus on this offseason was team bonding and bringing the team even closer together off the field, because that will carry over onto the field. As far as soccer is concerned, I have been trying to take the ball up more on the dribble from defense and then joining the attack when the opportunity presents itself.”
The last major event left for the Mules this spring was a four-team scrimmage, Play-Day, with Wilkes University, Marywood University and Kings College on Apr. 24. The Mules competed in 60-minute matches against the three other clubs, capitalizing on playing against a team other than themselves.
The competition simulated the intensity and gamespeed that they will see in the fall. Burke saw this as an opportunity to see what kind of team her squad would be. “It was definitely an adjustment to play three games in a row after not playing a competitive game since October. However, through the encouragement and guidance from our coaches and teammates, we were able to come together to win two of the three games. The competition was great! The day was exhausting, but with my teammates’ constant enthusiasm and motivation it made the day that much better.”
Winning matters. Although the previous statement is true, having scrimmages with zero playoff pressure gave the Mules the chance to try out different players and combinations of lineups as well. “Obviously we want to go in and win as much as possible, but the main purpose is for our players and coaches to experiment and try new things to see what works and what does not. For example, this past Sunday we had a lot of players play in positions that they have never played before,” said DeAngelo.
Finding chemistry in the offseason can be extremely beneficial, especially for a young squad. Out of the 30 players on the team, the Mules will graduate four this spring and another four will be upcoming seniors in the fall. The vast majority of the women’s soccer team is made up of underclassmen. “We are such a young team; so last season was definitely a building year with more than half of us never playing in a collegiate game before. I am very impressed with everyone’s work off the field and determination to bring this program to the top,” said Burke.
With such youthful players on the roster, there were bound to be some stock-risers this spring who were able to utilize the practice time to show improvement to the team as well as the coaches. For Burke, one teammate stood out, “Izzy Jacobson [‘25] dealt with many injuries last season and was not able to play for a majority of the season. Watching her play in the Play-Day was so fun. She [nut]megged not only one player but two. Her technical skills vastly improved and did not go unnoticed by the team. Overall, the team is constantly growing and learning more about the game on and off the field.”