Column: Michigan State women's soccer showing signs of growth
The women's soccer team suffered its first defeat on Sunday, as the formidable Colorado Buffaloes arrived in East Lansing and shutout the Spartans, three to nothing.
After having their most impressive start to a season since 2014 - recording five wins, zero losses and one tie through their first six games - the Spartans now have a stain on their once-unblemished record.
While Coach Tom Saxton described the Colorado match as the squad's "first setback of the year,” he views it as a benchmark from which his team can measure its growth.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge to develop continuity and consistency with each other’s tendencies, so that’s something we hope we can grow in.”
However concerning a 3-0 home loss may be, the Spartans need not dismiss their success thus far, but rather maintain optimism - a point stressed frequently by Saxton.
“One of the things that’s driving us is that we were ranked last in the Big Ten for preseason rankings, so I think we’re all pretty upset about that,” said junior midfielder Hannah Jones, who described that as the source of the mentality that has driven her squad to its best start in five seasons.
This group has had many other promising developments through its first seven games, namely the play of redshirt junior goalkeeper Reilley Ott.
After conceding only one goal at the Nike Invitational in Seattle, the junior goalie earned Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Week — an honor rightfully deserved as a testament to her effort from last season.
“It’s really great because, at the end of last year I felt like it was a lot of working on my end without seeing any benefits … any good results," Ott said. "Now I can see even near the beginning of the season we’re already getting such great feedback.”
Another area of promise is the freshmen play - most notably that of forward Camryn Evans. Despite being blanketed by Colorado's defense on Sunday, Evans showed flashes of her potential against Oakland last Thursday, with a two-goal outing.
After an unsuccessful attempt to continually facilitate the ball through the freshman on Sunday, the Spartans need to put more effort into playing through Evans, and exploiting defenses from which she draws attention.
The Spartans' starting back line is also relatively young, as freshmen defenders Sam White and Sam Sklarski, and sophomore Athena Biondi — who has started in all seven matches this season along with White — have been a major factor in the team’s four goals allowed through seven games.
With the combination of youth and skill, the Spartans will continue to develop chemistry and consistency throughout the season, as they have already proven to be serious contenders in the Big Ten.
Ott’s superb goalkeeping, the club’s energetic pace and the skill stemming from its young back line and forward units have made the Spartans formidable opponents. And they will continue to disprove their last-place preseason conference ranking.