Though the stats are final for the 2018 fall season, Gonzaga soccer never ends. Both the men’s and women’s teams are continuing practices, conditioning and scrimmages this spring in order to improve its games.
This fall, the women’s team thrived in its growth. Not only have the players been working to perfect the technical aspects of the game, like dribbling, passing and shooting, they have also been aiming to work better together.
The team has a clear focus on the culture of the group. Having healthy and supportive relationships with each other off the field enables the athletes to come together and form connections on the field. With all of the upcoming changes in the new season, the goal is to keep a tight bond and form a dependable team dynamic.
“Having this cultural foundation right now is going to be really important in making that transition and being really clear on what we expect of the freshmen coming in and what we expect of ourselves,” said Maddie Cooley, a redshirt sophomore.
Though one senior, Jodi Ulkekul, is still playing with the team with her eyes on a professional career in Turkey, the rest of the seniors have moved on to preparing for graduation and the beginning of their adult lives. Along with that, 12 incoming freshmen are set to join the team next fall, to add even more new blood to GU’s roster.
“It’s really going to be crucial for us to just dig in, play how we know how to play … and get a lot of wins,” Cooley said.
The men’s team is also looking toward improvement. Though they faced some adversity this fall, including winning just two games, GU’s record did not entirely reflect its performance. Despite the results, they grew as a team and continue to progress this spring.
They had a rough game against University of Washington last week, but the following training sessions were promising. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday all proved to be successful practices to prepare the Zags for their next scrimmage, which was won in a landslide.
“The guys responded to it,” said head coach Paul Meehan. “So, I think from a developing standpoint we’re getting better.”
The training necessary to achieve this advancement is made difficult with the loss of seniors and the rise in injuries and illnesses. Numbers are low, but two recruits in next years class have already started training with them; the other four will join in August. Nevertheless, they continue to push.
“The way I wanna play and what we’re asking the guys is demanding a lot,” Meehan said. “But again, we’ve made good strides this week and it’s a process, so I would expect a much better result at the end of the [fall] season.”
With the absence of the seniors and the emergence of new members, the team dynamic may slightly change for the fall, but Meehan has seen a variety of teams during his career at GU. He came here in 2013 and stepped up as head coach in November of 2017 after former head coach Einar Thorarinsson announced his retirement.
He described this particular group as genuine, dedicated and full of energy.
“You couldn’t ask for better people,” Meehan said. “I mean they’re all Zags.”
The team communicate and work well together on the field. When someone scores a goal, every single player in the game is sure to congratulate him with a high five, and the substitutes yell the loudest to be sure he can hear the celebration of his shot.
“The new guys are gonna contribute to that,” Meehan added. “It’s been that way for years, just every year: more good players, more good people.”
As summer approaches, the soccer program continues to look toward the fall season. They have constant training sessions and a few more upcoming scrimmages to work on anything that needs improvement.