By Ryan Obradovic, staff writer
The 2017 University of Missouri-Saint Louis women’s soccer team has 13 new players on the roster, including six freshmen who are expected to make immediate contributions, per fourth year Head Coach Wendy Dillinger.
The Tritons are led by a junior class who has been to the NCAA tournament the last two consecutive years. “They won’t accept not going back,” Dillinger said.
For the Tritons to increase their chances of not only making, but hosting the NCAA tournament, they need to make improvements from the 2016 season.
Dillinger said the team needs to work on “finishing opportunities” for the upcoming season. During the 2016 season, the Tritons suffered a 1-0 loss to Indianapolis which foiled the team’s chance of hosting the NCAA tournament and instead had to travel to Michigan.
“We came out flat the first 45 minutes, gave up a goal, and the second half we dominated but couldn’t finish,” Dillinger said. “We can’t make opportunities of that nature slip by because it does make an impact at the end of the season,” she added.
Captain Lauren Lottmann, junior, business, said, “The biggest thing we can improve on is playing the full 90 minutes to reach our full potential… expectations are high so we need to meet them.”
Dillinger has high hopes for her 2017 squad. The Tritons finished third in the Great Lakes Valley Conference in the 2016 season but “want to challenge for a conference championship,” Dillinger said.
Also, Dillinger aspires to host the NCAA tournament as well as develop the young players that are coming in.
The Tritons play in a weekly summer soccer league led by team captains at Lou Fusz Soccer Club which helps the team gain chemistry, work on their skills, and improve their physical fitness for the upcoming season.
“When you bring in 13 new players you really have to work hard to get chemistry and synergy… especially because we are relying on the newcomers to make an immediate impact,” Dillinger said.
In addition to the summer soccer league, Dillinger plans to put the incoming and returning players in groups of two when practices officially start on August 14 to strengthen the chemistry between them.
The 2017 team will be without the captain and 2016 Third Team All-GLVC, McKayla Harder, junior, psychology, for the beginning of the season. Harder broke her fibula during a spring game against Lindenwood which led her to getting a metal plate along with 11 screws inserted into her leg. According to Harder, she hopes to get the green light from her doctor to get back onto the field before October.
Although the Tritons will be without Harder, who was tied for the team leading goals scored 7 in 2016, Dillinger hopes that Harder’s absence won’t be detrimental to the team’s success. “Losing Harder is going to be something where we need the team to step up and fill the production she brought offensively,” Dillinger said.