Women’s soccer ranked fifth nationally in 2014

St. Edward’s women’s soccer enters the 2014 season with high expectations.

Fresh off an Elite Eight appearance in last year’s Division II NCAA Tournament, the women picked up where they left off with a 2-0 victory over University of Colorado State-Pueblo  in last Thursday’s season opener.

“We want to win every game we play,” head coach Nick Cowell said. “Resulting in a conference championship, a conference tournament championship, a bid to the NCAA Tournament, and ultimately an NCAA Championship.”

This year the women are ranked relatively high by numerous polls, reaching No. 5 in the NSCAA rankings, No. 26 in the Massey rankings, and No. 44 in the Bennett rankings.

With all of these expectations, sometimes pressure can build up. However, Cowell has his team playing under control.

“Any pressure that we have is what we place on ourselves to perform at a high level every time we go out on the field,” Cowell said.

Yet a controlled mindset and a high preseason ranking are not the only things that the Hilltoppers have going for them. They also have loads of leadership.

“We have a core leadership group who have grown with the program over the past four years,” Cowell said. “Mikayla Engel and Riana Soobadoo organize a lot of the team’s activities; Ally Lindquist, Cailyn Trapani and Megan Anderson are fierce competitors on the field; Jessie Traves and Katie Donahue lead with quiet confidence and composure on the pitch.”

This leadership will be crucial as a large number of new faces join the team.

Some of these new faces are transfers, such as defenders Jennifer Bourdeau from the University of Memphis and Jordan Thinger from Otero College.

“With the strength of our returning players and the talent of our newcomers this year we could potentially and hopefully make it to at least the Final Four,” senior defender Ally Lindquist said.

In addition to the incoming freshman and transfers, the Hilltoppers are also gaining two international players from Sweden: Viktoria Malmros and Elin Rosenberg Cemazar.

“This is the most competitive squad, top to bottom, that we have ever had,” Cowell said.

However, these newcomers face the tall task of filling the shoes of last year’s decorated senior class, a group that included All-Americans Kate Orkild and Rachel Murray, goalkeeper Dani Licarione and defenders Amber Guenther and Anna Owen.

With a balance of young talent and veteran leadership, this year’s team will look to gel as a unit and excel on the field as well as off.

 “They compete at the highest level nationally in NCAA Division II,” Cowell said. “They achieve grades significantly higher than the regular student body, and also find time to devote many hours a week to various community service projects.”

After coming up short last season, the women have unfinished business to attend to in 2014. Their road to redemption continues on Friday against Colorado School of Mines here in Austin, kickoff is at 4 p.m.