by Andrew Forhan
The Whitworth women’s soccer team has found its stride on the field lately, performing exceptionally well during their last nine contests. The Bucs came away with a victory and a tie this past weekend, and have not lost since Sept. 24. The team is uniting on and off the field, and finding success with the system implemented by first-year Head Coach Jael Hagerott.
A key component to this success is strong leadership from the senior class. The Bucs have five seniors on this year’s roster. Each senior plays a vital role on the field, along with fulfilling leadership roles to the younger players.
“We all work really well as a senior class, with communicating with each other,” senior defender Anisa Babar said. “I think the underclassmen feel that they can come up to talk to us about anything that’s on their mind.”
Whitworth has adopted a fearless mentality during the recent stretch of hot play. The Bucs currently hold the third best record in the conference. Their mentality put into action on the field has Whitworth still within reach of a conference title as the season nears a close.
“Coach Jael told us that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain right now,” Babar said. “So I think we just have a momentum going; we’re just going out to every game putting on as much as we can and not being afraid to take risks.”
The leadership and unity for the squad has been received well by underclassmen as they mature through the program.
“Last year the seniors really reached out to the freshmen,” sophomore defender Jami Hegg said. “I can see this year that we’re doing that to the freshmen. We get along really well, so it’s been fun.”
As an assistant before taking the reigns as head coach this year, Hagerott is familiar with this group of players in their development as they come through the program and adopt leadership roles.
“It’s always a fascinating process,” Hagerott said. “You really see [the players] mature, and really become confident in who they are as individuals, and step into that role. They’ve really done a good job.”
The Pirates’ recipe for success continued Saturday, with a 2-1 victory over the George Fox Bruins on a rainy day at the Whitworth Soccer Field.
Hegg assisted both Pirate goals in the contest, the first of which came during the match’s 10th minute when her cross was finished into the net by junior defender Carly Schilperoort.
The Bucs lost their 1-0 lead on a 29th minute goal by the Bruins, but responded after halftime with a second goal in the 43rd minute.
Hegg passed to junior midfielder Mackenzie Grow, who found herself with some space outside the box. Grow turned and fired a shot from about five yards outside of the box that arched high over the outstretched fingertips of the leaping Bruin net-minder into the back of the net.
Whitworth dictated the pace of the game, controlling possession of the ball for much of the contest, earning seven corner kicks and taking 16 shots overall.
On Sunday the Bucs hosted the Boxers of Pacific University. After regulation and two overtime periods, neither team was able to score, resulting in a 0-0 draw. Both squads exhibited stingy defense, as neither keeper recorded a save during the first half of play.
Senior goalkeeper Callie Bergstrom made second half saves during the game to anchor a solid defensive performance for Whitworth. She also made multiple athletic plays at the goalie position, including a leaping deflection of a Pacific shot on goal that skimmed off the crossbar during overtime.
The Pirates did create nine corner kick opportunities in comparison to Pacific’s three, but each team only produced six shots on goal over the course of the match.
Whitworth tied an opponent for the fourth time this season, but still has not lost a match in their past nine games.
The Pirates will face Linfield College and Lewis & Clark College next weekend on Saturday and Sunday respectively at the Whitworth Soccer Field in their last two regular season home games. Both contests begin at noon.