Coming into the season, the Wheaton Women’s Soccer team aims to improve on last year’s record.
After finishing with a 12-8-0 record, the Thunder lost 2-1 to Illinois Wesleyan in the conference championships. The Titans moved on to the NCAA DIII Women’s Soccer Tournament, marking the first year that the Thunder had not gone to the tournament in 19 consecutive years. In the CCIW preseason poll, Wheaton was picked to finish first with 61 points and five first-place votes. Illinois Wesleyan was picked second with 56 points and two first-place votes.
When asked about the upcoming season, head coach Pete Felske commented, “We will be better than last year in every area of the field, so I hope that translates into more wins.”
In addition to the Thunder’s influx of new talent, many of last season’s stars are returning..
Senior Kathryn McGregor will be returning as the Thunder’s starting goalie. Last season, McGregor played in all of the Thunder’s matches,averaging 1.08 goals against and achieving seven shutouts. Freshman Madison Lee will join McGregor this season. Felske observed that Lee “may come in with a better goalkeeping history, training and technical ability ” He predicts that the competition at goalie this year will be fierce between the two players.
On defense, senior Hannah Hodge and juniors Anne Jekel, Ruth Ellen Bailey and Molly Thorson are returning for the Thunder. Hodge will be a team captain for the 2017 season. Thorson started in 19 matches last year and earned First Team All-CCIW recognition for her efforts on defense. In addition to some stellar returning players, the back line is receiving fresh feet in freshmen Izzy McNally, Sarah Tomich, Emma Strong and Sophie Stradinger.
Moving up the field, Felske comments that, “The midfield is an area we are really excited about.” Standing out among the veteran Thunder players is junior Madison Peebles. After starting in every 2016 match, she earned All CCIW and NSCAA All-Central Region recognitions. Junior Anna Saunders, last year’s offensive player of the year who finished the season with eight assists, is another notable asset.
On the front lines, senior Morgan Whitman is returning as the top scorer for the Thunder last season. She had six goals and two assists. Remarking on Whitman’s playing style, Felske said, “She has good pace and a very strong work ethic. With a few minor tactical changes, more goals should come.” Other scorers for the Thunder forwards last season were junior Chelsea Gnan and sophomore Sarah Gencarella who scored two goals each.
With a strong roster, the team anticipates great flexibility when it comes to crafting their starting line up. The Thunder open up their season with the Bob Baptista Invitational at Bean Stadium next week. Wheaton plays Whitworth University, Sept. 1 at 4:30 p.m., followed by Loras College on Sept. 2 at 4:30 p.m.