Women's soccer reflects on first season in A-10

Mason earned #5-seed and will face #4-seed St. Bonaventure in the first round of the A-10 tournament (photo by John Irwin).
Mason earned #5-seed and will face #4-seed St. Bonaventure in the first round of the A-10 tournament (photo by John Irwin).

The Mason women’s soccer team was relaxed but focused as they started practice the day before leaving for Philadelphia for their last two games of the regular season.

The team was getting ready to take on Saint Joseph’s University and La Salle University, two Atlantic 10 opponents. While the team entered the weekend having won four of their last five games, the season had not come without its share of struggles.

“We had a really good start followed by a bit of a slump,” said Head Coach Diane Drake. “We had lost some players to injury and had a little bit of an emotional phase to the season, and we had to reconnect and find out who we were.”

In the first season in the new conference, the team has performed well in conference games. This season serves as a bounce back after finishing 3-6-1 in conference play and 7-11-1 in their final season in the Colonial Athletic Association.

The team is hoping to cement its improved conference play by making a run in the A-10 tourna­ment, which runs from Nov. 7-10 in Richmond. Despite the A-10 tour­nament on the horizon, the team was focused on their final two oppo­nents on the schedule.

“You can’t look ahead [to the conference tournament],” Drake said. “You can talk about it, but you can only worry about the next game on your schedule.”

Drake believes that the team has now regained enough healthy players to be considered one of the top teams in the conference health-wise and is hoping to use its depth and healthy bench to tough out the fast A-10 tournament schedule turnaround.

The team attributes its success this year to their ability to control games defensively.

“Our defense started out really strong and now our defense is even stronger than it was right out of the gate,” Drake said. “Just making better decisions and linked in as a unit all the way, front to back.”

The numbers back the thoughts of the team. This is the first year that the women’s soccer team has had seven or more shutouts in a season since 2009, when the team posted 10 shutouts.

Senior goalkeeper Lyndse Hokanson credited the players in front of her for the team’s success in keeping the opposition off the scoreboard.

“I have the fortune of getting cred­ited with shutouts and a lot of times I think it’s pretty unfair because a shutout is a team effort,” Hokanson said. “And so I’ve contributed saves here and there but that is to comple­ment the effort of our backs and the rest of team this year in a defending mentality.”

Mason is in the middle of the pack in the A-10 at number 6 of 13 teams in goals allowed with 23.

Coach Drake knew before the year started that the team would have to play a tight, defensive style of game to succeed.

“It clearly felt like that we said [in the preseason] we were going to be one of the stingiest defensive units around,” Drake said. “And we weren’t really sure exactly where we were going to get the goals from — you know, we were losing our leading goal scorer for several years.”

Both players and coach agreed that for Mason to make a deep run in the A-10 tournament, the team needed to pick up their game on the offensive side of the ball.

“We’ve got to score more goals. We’ve had a lot of close games of late, one goal games, some in our favor some not in our favor,” Hokanson said. “We’ve defended well and we’ve created opportuni­ties, we just haven’t been able to put them in the back of the net.

While Hokanson has been content with the quality of scoring chances generated, some of the difficulties on offense can be attrib­uted to generating a quantity of shots, where Mason ranks 12th in the conference with 175 shots.

In addition to finishing on the scoring chances they do create, junior defender Paige Babel believes the team needs to work on their setups in offensive sequences.

“We’re fine-tuning our posses­sion and our final pass to goal,” Babel said.

The responsibility to control the offense on the field falls in large part with senior midfielder Jazmin Cardoso, who is seen by her team­mates and coaches as the calming presence on the field. Her pace with the ball determines Mason’s play and tempo.

“Coach is like, ‘Jazmin, you need to relax the team, you need to calm them down, bring the ball down and keep the ball,’ and I think that’s one of the biggest roles I have on the team,” Cardoso said.

While Mason has had success in conference play, the out of confer­ence opponents have dented the team’s overall record, due in part to the tough schedule, where the team fell to then-ranked University of Maryland and the regular season champions of the CAA, James Madison University, and the Northeast Conference, Saint Francis University.

“You’re talking about a lot of teams that are successful in their own right and getting a chance to make that cross and play with the best of other conferences shows that has obviously translated well to us coming into the A-10,” Hokanson said.

Looking forward to the A-10 tournament, Cardoso and her team want to control the pace of games and echo Coach Drake’s desires to play more consistently.

“I think just playing the same level throughout the whole game,” Cardoso said. “And not having ups and downs like we have had throughout the season and not letting the other team dictate how we play.

No votes yet
Student Media Group: