One of the most difficult jobs for a coach is finding the right amount of youth for your roster. The Missouri Western soccer team will have plenty of youth taking the field this fall. With only three seniors on this year’s team, coach Chad Edwards hopes that those senior’s experience is enough.
“We have seniors with lots of experience and they understand what it takes to be successful,” Edwards said.
One of those seniors, Cassidy Chappell believes the toughest part is learning how to play as a team.
“We’ve been working on learning how each player plays and how to get better at attacking,” Chappell said.
The Griffons finished last season with a 9-8-1 record–the best record in program history. Western added nine new players to this year’s roster and they want those players to continue to help the program succeed.
“We’ve talked to the players about not having the new players have that feeling of heartbreak,” Edwards said.
Last season’s leading scorer returns for her junior season. Forward Bridget Blessie led the team with five goals last season, starting all 18 games for the Griffons.
“She’s a great kid, works so hard,” Edwards said. “That’s what I appreciate about her, I know what I am going to get out of her every day.”
Defense has been the strength of the program the last few years–yielding 0.80 goals per game last season. It is the Western offense that has struggled in previous seasons. The offense averaged just 0.94 goals per game in 2015. It will be up to players like Blessie to improve in that area in order for the Griffons to compete for an MIAA championship.
“We just have to have the mentality to score, to finish,” Blessie said. “We want to beat teams 3-0 and to be known as an attacking team, not just a defensive team.”
The Griffons will also be tasked with replacing their All-MIAA goalkeeper, Sarah Lyle. Lyle had to leave the team for personal reasons. Taking her place will be either Lexie Martin or Paige LaBadie.
“Lexie has really stepped up and Paige is still getting use to how we do things here,” Edwards said. “I have confidence in whoever starts for us next Friday.”
The Griffons start their season in Arkadelphia, Ark. at the MIAA/GAC Challenge. The team knows that they must perform better on the road this season. Western was 6-2 at home, but just 3-6-1 when not playing in the friendly confines of Spratt Stadium in 2015.
“We talk about being really good Sunday players and when you’re on the road you’re in the hotel and you may not be as focused in your training session on Saturday,” Edwards said.
Missouri Western was picked to be fifth in the preseason MIAA Coaches Poll. They will start their conference schedule against two teams who were picked to finish in the bottom of the conference before facing off against last season’s conference champion, Central Missouri. In the eyes of Blessie, this Western team is just as talented as the team from Warrensburg.
“I think maybe they are more patient on the ball, but I believe we play with more heart and toughness,” Blessie said.
The team knows where they want to be at the end of the season–and they know who they must beat and what it will take to finish at the top of the MIAA.
“There is always that team that you want to reach, that you want to beat,” Blessie said. “And that is our goal, to beat UCM and to be like them and with our talent and heart. I think we can be.”
The Griffon’s first match will be against Harding University on Sept. 2 and their first home game will be Tuesday Sept. 6 against Bemidji State University.