Women’s soccer falls in Round of 32

The Virginia Wesleyan women’s soccer team season ended at the hands of The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by a final score of 3-0. The Marlins finished their season with a 15-7-1 record while the #1 team in the country, TCNJ, advanced to the Sweet 16 at a perfect 20-0.

The Marlins received an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament after concluding their regular season with a 1-2 loss to Bridgewater College in the ODAC Semi-Finals. The Marlins hosted the ODAC Tournament at Foster Field at the Trinder Center after securing the top seed after finishing 9-1 in ODAC play. The team was unsure of their fate and had to wait until the NCAA Selection Show to determine their fate.

“The girls never thought our season would end in the ODAC Semi Final. To wait a week to find out your fate felt like an eternity. When they announced Virginia Wesleyan on the selection show, our girls were not only excited, but ready to prove that the conference tournament was a fluke. We had more in the tank and we felt grateful to be given second life. That girls had great energy and were very focused during our week of training leading into the NCAA Tournament. They weren’t taking anything for granted,” assistant coach Sam Kirschenbaum said.

It was familiar territory for the Marlins as just a year ago, they received an at-large bid and had to travel to Ewing, NJ at host TCNJ and fell to Brandies, 3-0. But, this year, there was a different result, with their first round match up with another opponent from the Baystate, Tufts University (10-6-3), the Marlins advanced with a 3-2 victory led by three first half goals, two from sophomore Alex Davidson while junior Kennedy Skala put away the decisive goal late in the first half. The victory was the first for the Marlins in their last six NCAA tournament appearances.

Despite the loss in the NCAA Tournament, the Marlins earned their 18th straight winning season under Coach Jeff Bowers. The ODAC Coaches recognized the stellar play as seven Marlins earned all ODAC accolades highlighted by ODAC Rookie of the Year, Anna Pedicone. Pedicone registered 11 goals in her freshman campaign. Senior Zoe Traficante and junior Brooke Adamchak join Pedicone on the All-ODAC First Team. A trio of sophomores earned All-ODAC Second Team honors, Shea Geary, Ryan McCurry, and Alex Davidson. Sophomore Alicia Zamora represented the Marlins as the All-ODAC Third Team goalkeeper.

Being only the third player in Virginia Wesleyan women’s soccer history to win the award, Pedicone was humbled by the honor, but knew she did not achieve the award on her own.

“Being named ODAC Rookie of the Year felt amazing, it was such an honor. I was very surprised that I won this award and definitely could not have done it without the help of all my teammates. Coming into this season as a freshman, my goal was to just help contribute to the team’s success as much as I could,” Pedicone said.

Coach Bowers’ squad will be locked and loaded once again next season as the 18 out of the 21 players who had a goal or assist to their name this season will be returning in the fall of 2018. This includes Davidson, who led the team in goals with 12 and assists with 7, good for 31 points. The Marlins will also only lose one of their regular starting 11 from this past season. Look out for the ODAC to run through Virginia Beach once again as the Marlins look to advance to their third straight NCAA Tournament and capture their first ODAC Tournament crown since 2006.

The players on the team feel the same way and know the success they can achieve next season.

“Being such a young team, we expect to be back in the same position, if not further next season. Our team has a lot of talent and motivation that can only be improved from this year. We are a driven team that wants to win and is looking to repeat our success in ODAC next year and to continue moving forward in the NCAA tournament,” Pedicone said.

A key to the Marlins success moving forward will be the six seniors Coach Bowers will have on his roster for next season, but with five of them going abroad next semester, the team will look for the spring season to build leadership within the young core.

“Even though five of us will be gone, I’m confident that we have strong leaders within the underclassmen that will step up to fill the rolls, and this will help us as a team when we arrive in the fall as we look to win the ODAC Championship that we have been chasing,” Alex Cortright said as she prepares to study abroad in Sydney, Australia.

Coach Kirschenbaum echoed the same message, “The staff is very aware that 5 key leaders for our program will be absent in the spring. It’s a time where our staff will need to mentor certain underclassmen and develop them into becoming leaders for the future. As much of a challenge it is to have our rising seniors gone, it’s an unbelievable opportunity for our younger players to step up and help each other through the spring. We feel very confident in the character of all of our players, and we are excited to see who steps up this spring.”

The Virginia Wesleyan community will have plenty of reasons to cheer next fall.

Luke Chiasson