After a challenging start to the season, the Pioneer women’s soccer team heads are held high as they enter the end of their fall 2011 season.
It would be an understatement to say that Pioneer athletics have struggled from the move this year to NCAA Division II.
From a 3-11 record, the team has battled its way through this season, making a few adjustments to their playing skills and to their expectations as the year has progressed.
“It’s a little rough this season since we are having a losing season, but I think we had a turning point when we were playing as a team,” freshman midfielder Jaclyn Anderson said. “We all decided that we really need to put our hearts into it and since then the games have been more heartfelt.”
According to Anderson, this season has taken its toll on players both mentally and physically.
“Last year they had a really good season, and I feel like we all are struggling with the fact that we only have won a few games,” Anderson said. “There are a lot of injuries right now. I broke my ankle, a girl tore her ACL in preseason, there are hamstring pulls and calf strains and other typical muscle strains but I would say a majority of our team is hurt.”
Anderson broke her ankle by attempting to do a slide tackle during a win on Oct. 6 at Hiram College, which ended her season.
“I was hoping I just sprained it,” Anderson said. “I could pinpoint exactly where the pain was, so I knew it wasn’t good. I think the trainer there knew from the beginning it was broken.”
Pioneer women’s soccer head coach Leta Gramlich also spoke about the season’s challenges and the toll it has taken on her athletes.
[pullquote]”We all keep joking around saying by the end of the week we aren’t going to have a team anymore,” Anderson said.[/pullquote]
“The best thing this group of girls has is their chemistry,” Gramlich said. “The level of respect they give each other and the willingness to work for each other is remarkable. Our biggest challenge this year is playing at the Division II level. All of our games so far but two have been Division II schools, so I think that challenge is something that we are getting use to and is preparing us to what we will see at this level of competition.”
According to Gramlich, the level of intensity has raised dramatically from their transition to Division II.
“One of the other bigger challenges this year also is the size in the physical natural of the teams we are playing against,” Gramlich said. “It is something that we’re still continuing to get used to.”
Anderson also mentioned her thoughts on her team’s opponents this season.
“The Division II teams are a lot bigger than us,” Anderson said. “We are so tiny compared to all the other teams, but I think our coach is really trying to push us to be adjusted to how it’s going to be next season.”
According to Anderson, her teammates along with herself have been driven to work hard in the intensity, and all have paid for it.
“We all keep joking around saying by the end of the week we aren’t going to have a team anymore,” Anderson said.
“We definitely have some banged up players from the season,” Gramlich said. “I think their bodies are starting to wear down as the season goes along.”
Despite their challenging season of breaks, tears and bruises, both Gramlich and Anderson still continue to keep their heads held high as the season comes to a close.
“Every game we have been able to clean up a little bit on what we were making mistakes on from the last game,” Gramlich said. “The big thing for us is to pull out some wins. Walsh is still one game we haven’t played yet and that is a big rivalry. I think we would like to win that game and with what we have learned and grown so far this year, I definitely think that is a realistic goal.”
“I feel like it’s just the growing period,” Anderson said. “I feel next year it will be better. I think our goal is to just finish strong with our heads held high and be happy with what we did.”
The Pioneers will play next on Oct. 26 at home at 3 p.m. against rival Walsh.
Tina Oprean is a staff writer for Aviso AVW.