CWU soccer looks to build on historic 2016

Mackenzie Nolte going around a defender during a 3-0 win over Montana State Billings.

Mackenzie Nolte going around a defender during a 3-0 win over Montana State Billings.

Jack Lambert

Jack Lambert

Mackenzie Nolte going around a defender during a 3-0 win over Montana State Billings.

Simo Rul, Staff Reporter

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CWU women’s soccer had a historic 2016 season that involved the Wildcats going to their first ever NCAA tournament, where they earned their first victory. The Wildcats look to build on a successful 2016 season.

CWU finished the season 14-6-1. Their first NCAA tournament win came against Seattle Pacific University (SPU) in the west regional, winning 2-1.

“I think our goal, and also expectation … is to get further than we were last year,” junior midfielder Mackenzie Nolte said. “I think our team believes that we can make it further than that.”

Having a season that was full of achievements has helped the Wildcats take a step forward in the right direction.

“Well it’s huge and I think it’s just like we’re seeing it finally all come together, and we’re getting closer and closer to what this team is capable of,” Nolte said. “[Head] coach [Michael] Farrand, he believes in us so much, and each year I feel like we’re getting closer and closer to what we really want to be, and reflect how well of a coach he actually is, and how great of players we have.”

Nolte led the team with seven goals, she was tied for most points on the team, while also earning first team all-conference and west region second team.

“I’m just gonna try to make it the best year yet. It’s my last one, so it’s a big deal to me,” Nolte said. “But then also to my team, more than anything, how can I improve myself so that I’m helping them in whatever way I can.”

With a big freshman class coming in and needing to learn a unique system, the seniors will have to step up and lead the young players.

“I think it’s really important because we need to establish like a standard,” Nolte said. “I think we all know what it is because we [have] been here, we’ve established it over. But new girls coming in are gonna have to kind of learn quick because they’re gonna need to play for us.”

Nolte said the CWU standard is to show up everyday to practice to get better, while keeping the team and themselves accountable.

Going into her senior year, Nolte said she wants to do something every day to make herself better.

They are really close to one another, and have a tight-knit group.

“I thought always the teams who were closest did better,” Nolte said. “I think you work harder for people you like. It doesn’t become about you, it becomes about everybody else.”

When you have a big year like CWU did, going into next year the goals and expectations get much bigger.

“Our goal is, preseason get [new recruits] going, get them a feel for what Central soccer is,” junior forward Whitney Lowe said. “Making it further then we did last year. Last year was a record breaking year for CWU soccer.”

The Wildcats season ended with a loss to rival and NCAA Champion Western Washington University (WWU), so getting the best of them next season would be big.

“I think it’d be really a good experience to make it through further, and beat even WWU,” Lowe said. “Since I’ve been a freshmen here, it’s gonna be my senior year, I think just to beat such a skilled team would be a really good experience.”

Lowe said the thing that helped the team this year was taking it one game at a time, not looking ahead but just what was in front of them at that time.

Lowe is coming off of a season where she was third on the team in points, GNAC honorable mention, and West region third team.

Going into her last collegiate season, Lowe said her goal is to see it through with this group. She wants to help give the team confidence, have everyone’s back and make sure everyone is successful.

Head coach Michael Farrand said he wants to see if the team can do it again next year, once you make it to the NCAA tournament, you want to go back to it again.

“If you look at what we’ve been doing the last couple years, we’ve been close,” Farrand said. “To finally be able to get over the hump, win at that level, and compete within the region, just says a lot about the commitment of the girls who have been here before, and more importantly just the way that the mindset and the commitment of the girls we have on our roster.”

Farrand said there are similarities between the incoming seniors and freshmen group coming in. The seniors that are on the team now had to compete and play when they were freshmen, and now the freshmen group has the chance to do the same compete and play.

During their spring training, the Wildcats played some friendly matches against some Division I teams.

“We’re in the middle of a formation change, so it’s always interesting to see what combinations step-up. We had some good results against Montana, Gonzaga (GU), and then we had a disappointing result against the University of Washington (UW) that was with two days of practice,” Farrand said. “Then we had a good decent result against one of the women’s pro teams. Then we played Eastern on the end, but had [a] significant injury on the end of that.”

Farrand said Bailey Martoncik went down with a knee injury. They don’t know her status yet, but it hurt the Wildcats in the spring. It’s tough for the team, but there is belief going forward.

“We’ve battled back through that, we’re gonna miss that player, but we’re in good shape,” Farrand said. “I like who we are, and I like what’s ahead of us. The girls bring a lot of confidence for their senior year, and our upperclassmen are going to be very solid for us.”

The Wildcats start off the 2017 season with matchups at University of California San Diego (UCSD) and California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB).

“I think we showed last year how important road wins are in the Division II level, especially your non-conference road wins,” Farrand said. “We started out last year basically 4-0, and that 4-0 run kept us in the top six all year long, so it’s a huge weekend for us.”

The Wildcats are looking forward to another big year in 2017.

“We’re excited for the year, we’re excited that we had such great support from all across campus last year between students, faculty, the staff, and our student athletes here,” Farrand said. “We led the league in attendance, we led the league in livestreams, so we hope to do it again, and actually surpass it. We’re excited for the year.”

The Wildcats travel to California to start the year with two games in three days on Sept. 2, 2017 and Sept. 4, 2017. After those two games on the road, the Wildcats return home for a six game, three week homestand starting Sept. 7 against NAIA’s Northwest University.

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CWU soccer looks to build on historic 2016