PASADENA (Aug. 28, 2019) – Excitement has never been higher as the Caltech women's soccer team enters its third season as a program and second season of countable conference games. The team will look as different as it has ever looked in 2019, though the Beavers remain steadfast in the principles that have yielded early glimpses of success: togetherness, work ethic and an unrelenting desire to compete.
First-year head coach Ellery Gould will assume the helm for Caltech following an exceptional playing career at Bowdoin College as well as a successful assistant coaching stint at her alma mater. Gould has already begun to click with some of the team's veterans and newcomers and could be the link between Caltech's 15 returning players and 12 incoming recruits as the Beavers look to find their footing as a cohesive unit. Gould's primary goal upon meeting the team was to establish the culture and core values while bringing the team together. Early returns have thus far been positive.
"We've had the opportunity to get to know each other a little bit off the field and have started to form the team culture," Gould said. "On the field, we've been able to compete and push each other and the level of play has been raised by the returners and freshmen alike. We've done sessions on the field, in the pool, in the weight room and even in spin class and are doing everything we can to prepare for the home opener. I'm very excited about the mindset, the competitiveness and the work ethic of our players. You can tell they're a group that wants to get better every day."
The women's soccer team will be looking for its first SCIAC win as a program this year. The Beavers brought in a combined 19 players in each of the last two seasons that will undoubtedly play a role in putting Caltech in the conference win column, but this year's squad will also contain eight players from the inaugural team, all of which may have a heavy hand in what the collective whole can accomplish this year.
The 2019 rookie class, meanwhile brings the roster count to 27 scholar-athletes, putting the Beavers more on par with some of the SCIAC's very best while nearly doubling the size of the original 2017 team.
"Everyone is excited about the depth of our team this year," Gould said. "Having more numbers will be a huge advantage for us and now our focus is drifting more towards what formations we want to play and mixing and matching personnel with x's and o's. I think we've done a good job of building our relationships off the field too and have enjoyed the process that comes along with it."
The talent is there to match. Caltech is returning offensive leaders sophomore Schuyler Dick (Hudson, Ohio / Walsh Jesuit) and junior Krystin Brown (Lake Forest, Calif. / Trabuco Hills), both of whom are good bets to lead the offense once again. Dick is set to handle an expanded offensive role while Brown continues to chip in all over the midfield with her attacking mindset and strong shot. Both players will figure heavily into the mix with or without the ball on a Caltech team looking to impose its will on the opposition, particularly in the middle of the field. Senior midfielder Noelle Davis (Fort Worth, Texas / Texas Acad. of Math & Science) tied the two returners for the team points lead in 2018, but is unfortunately expected to miss the season due to injury as is sophomore forward Nivedita Kanrar (Riverside, Calif. / Riverside STEM Academy).
The freshman class is rich with defensive-minded players. Several new additions have the ability to completely reshape the way opposing teams look to attack the Caltech backline. Players like Catherine Kauber (Pleasantville, N.Y. / Pleasantville), Helen Siavelis (Arlington Heights, Ill. / Prospect) and Jackie Wang (Winter Park, Fla. / Trinity Preparatory School) could support that narrative, whether it happens as starters or substitutes. Kauber's intensity, work ethic and leadership by example has provided a boost to the players around her while Siavelis and Wang have the physical tools and soccer IQ to be immediate defensive contributors. Junior Nayla Abney (Sewell, N.J. / Deptford Township) will be called upon to lead once again as one of the Beavers' top center back options and her physicality will be necessary for the Beavers to go toe-to-toe with some of the better teams in Division III. Sophomores Zoe Beatty (Columbus, Ohio / The Wellington School) and Jocelyn Kho (Temple City, Calif. / Temple City) are also returning and could figure into the Beavers' flanks, positions that will be heavily utilized as a means of controlling the defensive wing while also getting the green light to advance the ball into the attacking zone.
Caltech's outside backs will look to send the ball to players such as sophomore Zoe Rock (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley), freshman Reeya Chenanda (Columbus, Ind. / Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities) and sophomore Moya Ly (Cincinnati, Ohio / Cincinnati Country Day), all of which are expected to see time at the forward position. Rock, who featured at center forward for the majority of her rookie season, led Caltech with 20 shots to account for one-quarter of the team's total from 2018. Now having the opportunity to play alongside 12 new Beavers, it will be up to the Caltech forwards to finish the opportunities afforded them by the team's talented midfielders and outside backs.
The Beavers' goalkeeping depth has never been better. As a result, the starting goalkeeper could vary from game-to-game with Gould and the coaching staff poised to ride the hot hand in what is expected to be a fluid situation. The program added two talented freshmen in New York's Eve Fine (Locust Valley, N.Y. / Friends Academy) and Valerie Hetherington (Bozeman, Minn. / Deerfield Academy) from Minnesota in the offseason and both players possess the intangibles necessary to be immediate contributors on this year's team. Caltech is also returning program saves leader Kali Drango (Lake Oswego, Ore. / Lake Oswego), a dual-sport athlete who is coming off her first full season in net and even led the SCIAC in saves last year.
"All of our goalkeepers have stepped up immediately," Gould said. "Each of them bring a different set of skills we will look to utilize. Eve really knows how to use her great reach and vertical while Valerie is a great communicator, great organizer and very good at coming off her line aggressively. I'd love to see everybody out there at different points in the season as effective contributors."
Other returners such as sophomore midfielder Saskia van Nieuwstadt (Ann Arbor, Mich. / Ann Arbor Huron) and junior defenders Maquelle Tiffany (Los Alamitos, Calif. / Los Alamitos) and Rachel Sun (Tustin, Calif. / Beckman) will provide some consistency, along with a veteran presence to the back line and back half of the midfield. Defender Gabriella Chan (Colleyville, Texas / School for the Talented and Gifted), another dual-sport athlete, is returning to the Beavers for her senior season. The rest of the incoming players will also have the opportunity to leave their mark on the program if they continue to show an aptitude on the practice field. Freshmen like Amelia Whitworth (Pacific Ridge / Carlsbad, Calif.), Bella Hurvitz (Santa Barbara, Calif. / San Marcos) and Amanda Gawlowicz (Hoover, Ala. / Hoover) are capable of lining up all over the midfield while players such as Anna Preuss (Overland Park, Kan. / Blue Ridge North), Allison Glynn (Johnson City, Tenn. / Dobyns-Bennett) and Logan Hayes (Redondo Beach, Calif. / Redondo Union) look to capitalize on the upside each of them possess and eventually work their way into definitive roles as the season rolls along.
Overall, there is plenty of excitement to go around for this year's Caltech women's soccer team. The amount of talent now in the program could lend itself to an exciting season, and Gould seems to have a handle on exactly how she intends to set that in motion.
"Everybody involved is excited and optimistic about this season," Gould said. "It's clear our players recognize the potential of themselves and their teammates and after a few sessions many of our returners have remarked how fun it's been to be back playing soccer again, with the level of play being the driving factor. The bar has been raised on the soccer field in terms of work ethic and tenacity, and while we still have a lot of work to do, I am proud of the work our players have put in over the summer. As a result, we have been able to hit the ground running and spend more time on the tactical side of the game as we start to figure out our identity as a team."
Gould and the Beavers will open the season on Friday, Aug. 30 when they host Marymount California University for a 4 p.m. clash.