There are many college soccer programs that would love to get double-digit wins, set school records and finish fifth in the conference. But for Chad Edwards and his team — they want more.
“I like our mindset, I like where we are at, and I like the kids we have coming back,” Coach Chad Edwards said.
The Griffons will return all but three players next season; that includes the program’s first ever First Team All-Conference player Cassidy Menke. Menke finished tied for fourth in the MIAA in goals scored with nine.
“You get her in the right spot and she is just a true finisher,” Edwards said. “But what a special season for her.”
The Western offense improved mightily from the 2015 squad. Last season’s team averaged less than one goal per game, this season they improved to score 1.2 goals per game.
“I think that compared to last season we grew a lot, and you could see that in our record,” Defender Bailey Ketcham said.
The team finished 10th in the conference in scoring in 2015 and improved enough to finish 6th in the MIAA. Coach Edwards hopes that next year this team can be even better on the offensive side.
“Coming back next year we have lots of experience but also lots of players that can score goals and know how to score goals,” Edwards said. “It gives me excitement as we return a lot of our starters.”
The Griffons did struggle in a part of the game that they would normally consider themselves elite–defense. Western finished 2015 second in the MIAA in goals allowed with 15. This season the Griffons allowed 26 goals and finished eighth. The difference for the Griffons was experience, and that is something that their two goal keepers got plenty of in 2016.
“Of any positional group that we had, I was most proud of them,” Edwards said. “If you don’t have those two back there, we don’t have as many wins.”
Both Paige LaBadie and Lexie Martin are just sophomores and had big shoes to fill with the loss of All-Conference Gk, Sarah Lyle.
“I look back and they both competed and they both deserved playing time and earned it,” Edwards said.
The Griffons will have to replace three key starters in 2017. Taylor Gant, Bailey Dervin and Cassidy Chappell will all graduate this season. Western will be losing not just three seniors but three players who combined to start all but two games over the last two seasons.
“Bailey Dervin had a really great season, a player that has battled injury her entire career,” Edwards said.
The Griffons will need to reload if they want to be talked about like the elite teams in the MIAA. Conference champion Central Missouri loses just four players from their team and looks capable of continuing their conference dominance.
“They are a very good team, but we hope with what we have returning that we can finally take them down,” Ketcham said.
The Griffons will have even more pressure placed on them as they prepare over the off-season to continue their streak of improving their record each year.
“The pressure is fun. Three years ago the pressure was to make sure we had a winning season,” Edwards said. “Now we’ve gone from ‘we’re happy to be in the conference tournament,’ to disappointed we didn’t finish in the top three.”