SEATTLE – Washington women’s soccer continues with the spring season on Saturday with a matchup against Portland. The Dawgs and Pilots will renew their rivalry at 2 p.m. at the Nike campus in Beaverton, Ore.
Portland is coming off WCC title and second round appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Pilots defeated Washington, 3-0, during the regular season, but it will be a much different looking Husky squad that takes the field on Saturday.
Washington graduated five seniors, including Lindsay Elston who led the team in scoring in 2012 and just earned a spot with the Houston Dash of the NWSL. Instead, the Dawgs will rely on a group of newcomers that are hungry to leave a disappointing finish to the 2013 season behind them.
Washington began the 2014 offseason with renewed focus, energy and commitment to the team. The Dawgs are taking on the 1-0 attitude that Pete Carroll implemented to great success with the Seattle Seahawks as they went on to win Super Bowl XLVIII.
“I've watched Pete Carroll for a long time and also other coaches who really try to get their athletes and teams to try to stay in the moment and control what they can control,” said Husky head coach Lesle Gallimore. “For us that control is their attitude and their effort. Once the attitude and effort piece becomes a constant then their daily focus should also include having an impact on the game or whatever activity they are performing.”
“The 1-0 concept as far as competition goes gets and keeps their focus on that one match. I think too often for our team, and we were somewhat victims of this last season, had expectations for the ENTIRE season that were so high. We lost focus on the daily journey, on one training and one competition at a time.”
The Dawgs will have five seniors next season, including Stine Schoening and Kate Bennett who return for fifth years. Among the returning juniors that will be seniors in the fall is Chelsea Archer who is also taking on more of a leadership role.
“We look like a new team,” said Archer. “Not because players have changed so much, but more how that team has bought in. As a team, we just wanted to change how things have been. It hasn’t been necessarily working towards one common goal, but working on a lot of different things. We have this 1-0 mentality that we call it. It means to just get better every week. Even if we aren’t playing a game it is have the mentality of getting through it together.”
While last season’s team allowed just 17 goals all season, led by goalkeeper Megan Kufeld, the offense managed just 16 goals. Putting the ball in the back of the net has been a focus for the Dawgs this spring, but more as a result of the overall play than purely focusing on offense.
“The game against Seattle U. was a great result (UW won 4-1),” said last year’s leading scorer Bennett. “We scored some great goals, which we didn’t really see a lot of in the fall. We really competed hard, maybe more than we have in the past.”
“Yes, scoring was an issue last year, but a lot of what we are working on is being a good defensive team. Now we are working on possession and if we can get do both of those components well it will be much easier to get forward and score. A lot of that is composure up top. Last year when we would have it in the opponent’s half we would freak out. Defense, possession and composure up top is what we are hoping to accomplish.”
Both Archer and Bennett also spoke of the renewed team chemistry and with the loss of five seniors, the opportunities for playing time for young players.
“We have talked about how it has been a rocky road for all of us,” said Bennett. “We have all seen time on the bench. Now there are opportunities for people to step up.”
The new-look Huskies face a stiff challenge with the Pilots in Portland, but it also is a great chance to test their new preparation.
“It is a big game against a rival so we want to win, but at the same time we are just looking to get better,” said Archer. “We want to use the 1-0 mentality and put our best performance forward. We want to win, but also know the goal is to improve for next season. Each and every week we just want to keep getting better and better.”
“We don’t necessarily have a star player, but when we work together we can be a really strong team,” said Bennett. “I feel that is unique in a sense. We have a good chemistry right now. Some of the younger players are getting a turn and stepping up.”
“This spring phase is all about building a better team for the fall and as a staff we've been really pleased so far with how everyone is bought in to learning and working for one another,” said Gallimore. “We're excited to see the leadership emerge and to see how we incorporate the 7 new Huskies into the fold.”