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Monday, April 15, 2024
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New season, new team: 2021-22 women’s soccer season preview

Following a five-game schedule in spring 2021, AU looks ahead to a new season with the addition of nine new players

The American University women’s soccer team is eager to enter the regular season after a short-lived campaign and frustrating season last spring. The Eagles ended their 2020-21 season at the bottom of the Patriot League’s South Division, failing to qualify for the Patriot League tournament with a record of 0-4-1

Last season was one of transition. The program had just hired first-year head coach Marsha Harper following the departure of Anabel Hering, who announced that she would exit the program to pursue other professional opportunities in 2019. Although they ended the season winless, the Eagles were competitive in most of the games they played in and only lost by one goal in three out of five contests. 

Nonetheless, the Eagles averaged 7.8 shots per game, were ninth in the Patriot League and had one of the worst offenses in the conference. The lack of success did not just fall at the feet of the attackers, though. In just five league fixtures, AU’s backline conceded a total of nine goals with an average of 1.8 per game

Despite a disappointing record, AU ended the 2020-21 season with a vigorous effort against Navy, the eventual Patriot League champion. The Eagles drew their final league fixture 1-1 and most notably scored their only goal of the season, as Olivia Mahoney was the player to get on the board and equalize for her side. The rising senior was later named Patriot League Midfielder of the Week for her goal. 

However, AU will have to depend on new talent to carry them this season. AU’s six seniors all appeared in at least four games during the season, and only one will use their fifth year of eligibility to return to the team. 

The large incoming class has undoubtedly shifted the dynamic of the program. Last season, the dearth of positive results indicated a number of missing puzzle pieces that Coach Harper was left to put together this year. From a fruitless offense to a disjointed backline, these nine first-year players could be the key to a bounce-back year. 

While this year’s squad features a strong core of returning players, there are also nine highly-touted first-years who have been added to the fold. Midfielders Lily Becker, Andriana Cabral, Brooke Steel and Maya Ordaz should assist with the goal-scoring. 

Additionally, defenders Giuliana Capraro, Jordan Mahony and Amélie Kovacevic should help bolster AU’s pedestrian defense from 2020, and goalkeepers Julia Kato and Nina Zwolinski will provide needed backup options for first-year starter Luana Daluz. 

AU is showing early success with its new additions. The Eagles have come out on top in their first two exhibition matches, courtesy of Steel, who already has four goals under her belt — two goals scored against Radford and two goals scored against St. Francis Brooklyn. For Steel and the remaining eight players in her class, this could mark new beginnings for Coach Harper’s team. 

The team’s schedule consists of nine Patriot League matchups and seven nonconference matches, which includes eight home regular season games. AU will not see its first conference game until Sept. 18 against Holy Cross — an opponent which the Eagles have not played for over a year due to the cancellation of the 2020 season. The Eagles’ second home game will be against Army, a team they have not beat since 2009.

Finishing her second season as head coach with a winning record will be no easy feat for Coach Harper. Her side will have to produce results against Boston University, Navy, Colgate, Lehigh and Loyola Maryland — all of whom the Eagles struggled to beat in the past two seasons. 

AU women’s soccer is set to return to Reeves Field on Aug. 19 at 4 p.m. ET for its season-opener against William & Mary. The first conference fixture can be live streamed on ESPN+. 

Section 202 host Gabrielle and friends go over some sports that aren’t in the sports media spotlight often, and review some sports based on their difficulty to play. 

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