Featured Image: Junior Julia Marrone goes for the soccer ball during the game against Methodist University on Sept. 10 at the Trinder Center. Janet Green|Courtesy
The Virginia Wesleyan Women’s Soccer team finally gets the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. they deserve. On Oct. 4, the United Soccer Coaches Association released the rankings for Division III Women’s Soccer and the Marlins came up in the ranks at No. 21.
“Oh it feels awesome. In the locker room when we found out it was amazing—the energy, the music was so loud. It feels like the hard work paid off and we want to keep getting higher in the ranks,” Victoria Gonzalez, a junior defender on the VWU Women’s Soccer team, said.
The season started off with some tough competition. For their season opener, the Marlins played McDaniel College, ranked No. 19 in the nation at the time, and beat them 1-0. They went on to play College of St. Benedict and beat the Bennies 1-0. The first loss of the season came from the Captains of Christopher Newport University, who are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, in which the Captains beat the Marlins 2-1. The matchup between the Marlins and the Captains was a good one as the Marlins were leading through the first half and into the second.
The Marlins’ other wins this season were against the Monarchs of Methodist University, River Hawks of Susquehanna University, Seagulls of Salisbury University, Cougars of Averett University and the Royals of Eastern Mennonite University. They tied with the Eagles of the University of Mary Washington, putting their current record at 7-1-1 for the season so far.
“The first seven games of our season were just really difficult non-conference games that we used to prep us—hopefully, to expose us in ways that we need to get better and I think we handled that really well,” Women’s Soccer Head Coach Jeff Bowers said.
For 20 years, Bowers has led the team on a successful run, and under his direction, the Marlins have made a total of thirteen appearances at the NCAA National Tournament, made it to the Elite 8 twice in 2003 and 2006 and the Final 4 once in 2006. These series of successes put the Marlins on peoples’ radar, but according to Bowers there is not a lot of respect for the program.
“I’ve talked to our team about this a ton as I think a lot of people just lack respect for our program across the country,” Bowers said. “I just don’t think that they have a good view of our team and that’s frustrating to me because I think our players work extremely hard to be successful.” Now, the Marlins are nationally ranked and they want to continue moving forward.
The main goal for every collegiate sports team is to win their respective conferences, and that is a priority for the Marlins going into the conference games this October. As the reigning champions, the Marlins were selected as the favorites in the 2022 ODAC Women’s Soccer Preseason Poll. There is a lot of new talent on the field this season and the Marlins are excited nonetheless.
“It’s going to be really exciting. Our team is really full of talent and we’re really excited because I think we could go really far this year,” Gonzalez said.
In terms of going far this season, the Marlins have their sights set on getting farther in the tournament then they did last year. Having lost to the Eagles of Messiah University in the first round in double overtime the Marlins were upset but that just added fuel to fire for this season.
When the team got to New Jersey for the tournament, Victoria remembered “walking out onto the field at the NCAA tournament and I got choked up actually. I’m out here playing college soccer like doing the damn thing,” Victoria said. She expressed that many do not get this opportunity and that being there with her best friends on the big stage was just everything to her.
There is excitement across the board for the Marlins this year to do something big and unexpected. The Marlins have shown that they are a tough team to play against and that they will not back down without a fight. Bowers expressed that there is a lot of talent on the team and that they are “a fun team, a smart savvy team and we can really do some damage.”
The Marlins are back at the Tassos Paphites Soccer Complex on Oct. 11 against the Panthers of Ferrum College at 3:00 p.m.
By Shirell Washington