After starting the season 6-0, Emerson’s women’s soccer team is looking to get back on track in conference play.
Since beginning New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference play in September, the Lions have seen their perfect season disappear, going 2-2 over their last four outings and 0-2-1 in conference games.
The Lions tied their first conference opponent, Wellesley College, before losing their next two matches to Mount Holyoke College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 2-0.
Senior center midfielder and captain Tayllar Righini, who is currently tied for second on the team with six goals, said she’s been around long enough to know the reason these games are so highly valued.
“We’re really trying to make the playoffs this year,” Righini, a communication sciences and disorders major, said. “The more conference wins we have, the better our chances are at making the playoffs.”
Though the Lions sit winless through their first three conference contests, head coach David Suvak is trying to pull something positive out of the results.
“Although our game against Wellesley ended in a draw, that’s okay,” Suvak said. “We had not beaten those guys in two years, so it’s a step in the right direction.”
In another game, Mount Holyoke goaltender Zoe Marshall was able to stifle the Emerson attack—stopping all 19 shots on goal and handing the purple and gold their first loss of the season.
“[Marshall] made some very important saves for her team,” Suvak said. “But in some occasion, we made her look very good because we were shooting right at her.”
The Lions’ defense was able to limit the Mount Holyoke attack to two shots all game, but that wasn’t good enough, as they both found the back of the net.
Junior goalkeeper Melanie Escobar said she has been beyond impressed with her help up front this season.
“I honestly think this defense is the strongest I’ve had in the past three seasons I’ve been here,” Escobar, a journalism major, said. “We’re a very connected defense, and they trust me as much as I trust them.”
Junior defender and captain Natalie Benjamin admitted that her team wasn’t fully ready for what Mount Holyoke would bring.
“They had a block defense,” Benjamin, a marketing communication major, said. “They pretty much set up a wall on defense, making it hard to attack.”
In the wake of their first loss of the season, Suvak said he reinforced the fact that his team didn’t get out of September undefeated, but when they play a block-defending team again, they will be much better prepared during his postgame speech.
Escobar said she is trying to take a lesson out of the Lions’ first loss so it doesn’t happen again.
“Not every team is going to play us the way we think they are,” Escobar said. “We can’t always do the same things we’ve done in the past.”
Not only did the Lions go 6-0 but they posted a 38-3 goal differential during the stretch.
Benjamin attributes part of her team’s hot start to one of the key skills they take the most pride in.
“Our team works very well together,” Benjamin said. “We were able to get shots on net, where they’re supposed to be.”
Suvak said he was pleased with the Lions’ style of play and what they obtained from those matches.
“We had met many challenges of our early games,” Suvak said. “Those games were good to give our team confidence.”
With all seven of their remaining games being NEWMAC contests, the Lions will see a heavy dose of conference opponents. In preparation, the Lions’ are addressing their weaknesses.
“We have been working on our speed of play,” Benjamin said. “Making it faster instead of taking a longer time to switch from each side of the field.”
Despite a couple early conference losses, Escobar said she is certain they will turn it around.
“I think we are a very driven team,” the goaltender said. “I don’t think lot of teams know what to expect from us. I don’t think they know what they’re getting themselves when they come to play us.”