MCGILL: Women's Soccer Seniors Ready For Chemistry Test
The Word on the Herd-Aug. 11, 2016
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Last year’s Marshall women’s soccer team compiled a 15-4-3 overall record, 6-2-2 Conference USA mark, second-place regular season finish and tournament championship game appearance.
That takes talent, of course, but the Thundering Herd’s rising seniors know they’ll need something else in order to reach those heights again in 2016.
“Team chemistry is everything,” said Kayla Byrnside, one of three seniors for coach Kevin Long’s ninth team at Marshall. “I think last year a majority of our success was because of how close we were as a team. We were all best friends. I can’t tell you one person I didn’t like – I loved everyone.”
That’ll go a long way for a team replacing five of the top seven players in minutes played from last season, including goalkeeper Lizzie Kish, who started all 22 games and recorded nine shutouts. Marshall will roll out its new roster Friday at 5 p.m. in an exhibition match against Dayton. The Herd’s season opener is Aug. 19 at Purdue, and the expectations are high.
“My goal is to win conference and go to the NCAA tournament,” said Sydney Arnold, last season’s team leader in goals (9) and assists (5). “We can do that even though we’re a young team. We have good people, good underclassmen. Once we get through preseason and get to know each other, we’ll be OK.”
Byrnside, Arnold and Jordan Parkhurst are the Herd’s only seniors. Byrnside and Arnold started all 22 games and Parkhurst started 15 of her 22 appearances, so their experience will be invaluable on a team that includes six juniors, 10 sophomores and 11 freshmen.
“I think the juniors will help us out a lot,” Byrnside said. “They know how much last year meant to us.”
The “last year” to which Byrnside refers is the best season the program has had since its inception (1998). The program had never won more than 12 games overall or five games in league play. That is a long way from MU’s first season in Conference, 2005, when the program finished 2-16-0 overall and 0-9-0 in the league.
The difference now, however, is the program has momentum. The departing pieces are significant, but the winning culture is in place.
“I think it’s going to depend how the freshmen gel with the rest of our team,” Parkhurst said. “We need to continue to build on last year and play as a team rather than individuals.”
The seniors see that potential. Through preseason practice, the young players started opening up and the seniors learned about the newcomers. They will get the opportunity to come together during two exhibition matches and three regular-season road matches to start the season.
“We’ve got a lot of team bonding to go through,” Byrnside said. “After we get through the preseason the goofy side tends to come out and we can all relax.”
The official home opener is Sept. 2 against IUPUI.
“It’s fun to watch us play,” Arnold said. “Some people think soccer is boring, but it’s not. It’s an exciting sport and you never know what’s going to happen.”