Soccer teams look to build on strong 2018 seasons

by Anna May Mott | 9/16/19 2:15am

9-16-19-soccercover-nainabhalla

The men's soccer team defeated Michigan State at home on Saturday.

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Staff

Men's soccer

Now settled into a rhythm with a new coaching staff, the men’s soccer team is ready to reclaim its position at the top of the Ivy League. After getting off to a rocky start in 2018, the Big Green came back strong to finish third in the conference behind Princeton University and Columbia University. The result ended the Big Green’s run of four consecutive Ivy League championships. The team, however, is optimistic that success will return this season. 

An entirely new coaching staff took over last season, and the incoming head coach, Bo Oshoniyi, was dealt a difficult hand in preparing the program for 2018 with less than a full offseason. Additionally, star players Eduvie Ikoba ’19 and Justin Donowa ’19 missed games with long-term injuries.

 “It was a little bit of a learning curve, but our boys responded well to kind of a rough start,” Oshoniyi said.

The record would agree. In the first six games, Dartmouth went 0-4-2 overall, but the Big Green switched gears and managed to end the season with a record of 7-5-5. Now that the team has found its stride with the new staff, and after a full offseason of training together, the team expects a return to success.

Another challenge the team will have to grapple with is the loss of ten seniors from last year, including Ikoba and Donowa, who were both selected in the MLS draft.

“Those are big holes to fill, and it’s just giving some of our returning guys and some of our incoming freshmen opportunities to try to adapt to everything and get those major minutes,” Oshoniyi said. 

Some of the returning players did have a chance to begin adapting to more central roles last year during stretches of time when Ikoba and Donowa were injured. Oshoniyi said that experience has helped ease the transition.

Additionally, both Oshoniyi and captain Zack Kalk ’20 have recognized the freshmen also rising to the challenge. They both called particular attention to David Alino’s ’23 performance. He scored the lone goal in Dartmouth’s opening game against Wake Forest University, a team currently ranked first in the nation. Oshoniyi also named Clayton Molter ’23, Alex Van Schalkwyk ’23 and Eric Sachleben ’23 as important contributers.

The Big Green is on the hunt for another conference title but is also aiming for success in the NCAA tournament. This makes some of the matchups outside of the Ivy League particular points of interest for the team.

“We get really excited to show all the teams around the country that we’re more than just a good Ivy League team,” Kalk said. “We’re one of the best soccer teams in the nation.”

Kalk and his teammates are also anxious to face the University of Connecticut at home on Oct. 1. A late-game goal gave UConn the 1-0 victory in 2018, and Kalk said the Big Green is excited for some payback.

Overall, the forecast for the season is a positive one. Oshoniyi feels the team faced adversity last year, pushed through it and recovered well. Now that the dust has settled, they’re prepared to try for their fifth conference championship in the last six years.

“Our expectations are high,” Oshoniyi said. “I think we demand a lot out of our players, and I think they’re excited for what’s to come.”

Women's soccer

Six games deep in the 2019 season, Dartmouth women’s soccer aims to expand upon last year’s success. The team ended 2018 with an overall record of 10-5-2, its best since 2012, but the Big Green still fell short of its ultimate goal of winning the Ivy League conference. With a record of 4-2-1 in conference play, the Big Green finished third behind Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania, who tied for first in the Ivy League. After coming out of what captain Hayley Soriano ’20 called a rebuilding year in 2017, the team’s 2018 performance redefined its position in the conference and gave the rest of the Ivy League a hint of what to expect this year.

“Our big thing now is to try to build on this [success] … while we have changed the perception that teams in our league have about us,” said head coach Ron Rainey. 

As for rebuilding after the departure of the class of 2019, the Big Green graduated six seniors from a team of 26, and, according to Rainey, the returning athletes and incoming freshmen alike have stepped in to fill the holes left behind. The team was fortunate enough to have a fairly even distribution of athletes throughout the grades, and there are plenty of familiar faces this year. 

“The same players are more-or-less filling the same positions,” said Soriano. “The cohesion is kind of established, and … a lot of the positions are clicking from last year into this year.”

But the incoming freshmen have also made their presence known. Allie Winstanley ’23’s first career goal opened the scoring in Dartmouth’s shutout against Syracuse University. She netted another one when the Big Green defeated Florida International University 7-0 a week later, a blow-out game that also featured fellow first-year Juliet Moncho ’23’s first goal.

The team is hungry to win the conference championship it came so close to last year. With a 5-1 record out of the gates, its win against Florida International featuring Dartmouth’s most goals in a game since 2010, the Big Green has shown itself to be a strong contender.

“I think our eyes are on the prize probably now more than they ever have been,” Soriano said. “The passing is better than it’s ever been, I think the cohesion on the team in general is better than it’s ever been, on and off the field.”

Matchups that will occupy center stage this season in pursuit of the Ivy League championship will include Princeton and Columbia University. Princeton tied for first in the league last year and stood alone at the top in 2017, and when the Tigers played Dartmouth last year, the game ended in a stalemate with no score after double overtime. Additionally, the Big Green’s 1-0 loss to Columbia last year essentially ended its battle for the conference. This year the team will face the Lions at home in Hanover, and it is looking for the win.

“We were outplayed for sure last year,” Soriano said of the 2018 Columbia matchup. “Once we had lost that game, finishing first was sort of out of sight for us, so I think there’s a lot that we want to resurrect from that game that year.”

The team’s goal for the season is to win the conference title, while at the same time fostering a positive team culture and remaining committed students.

“We want to come out and on a daily basis train really hard, be really good students at Dartmouth, add to the campus community and be great teammates,” Rainey said. “We want to do those things while we chase an Ivy League championship.”

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