The 2015 season for the Illinois State University women’s soccer team came to a close Sunday when the Redbirds fell to Loyola, 2-1, in the opening round of the MVC tournament.
In a season where turnover within the program was evident in nearly every aspect, the Redbirds still had impressive showings.
Highlights included a 1-0 win at Wisconsin and a dominant 2-0 win at Northern Iowa.
On the other hand, the ’Birds took some tough losses as well, including falling at home to TCU, 2-0, in a game where ISU was outplayed in virtually every facet. The ’Birds also squandered a 2-0 lead to Drake to fall 3-2 early on in conference play.
ISU finished the 2015 season with a record of 6-10-2 including 3-3 in the Valley.
The ’Birds were unable to defend their title in the MVC tournament, a championship they have won every year since 2011. First-year head coach Eric Golz noticed flashes of good play out of his Redbirds, but the consistency was not always there.
“It was a transitional year where we had to replace some big pieces,” Golz said. “In that process we saw some really good things from some of the current players and, at times, we played some really good soccer. We lacked in those ‘game-defining’ or ‘game-winning’ moments. We lacked in the ability to finish, whether it was executing in crucial times defensively or on the attack. There were too many moments this year when we didn’t find a way to execute.”
Despite the transitional year and lack of consistency on the field, Golz believes it was beneficial for the program.
“We gained a lot of valuable experience this year, both on the field and where we need to go as a program. Not only our performance, but in terms of leadership and other similar things. It was a good learning experience for everybody,” Golz said.
The Redbirds had five individual weekly accolades this season, including three Defensive Player of the Week honors for senior Abby Van Deventer and an Offensive Player of the Week award won by senior Ali Farkos. Replacing Farkos and Van Deventer will not be an easy task, as the pair brought a combination of leadership and high level of play to the table.
“Abby and Ali both had great careers here, and we’re very thankful for all of the contributions they’ve made to the program throughout their years,” Golz said. “They’re both very accomplished players and great people. We’ll be rooting for them as they move on to the next chapters in their lives.”
Losing players happens every year, whether it is to transfers, or, in this case, graduation, but the show must go on. The Redbirds will be back in 2016 and a plan is in place.
“For the returning players, it’s a matter of re-investing in their own development,” Golz said. “There are some areas of weakness that we have to improve, and there are also a lot of strengths we have that we need to further highlight. It’s instilling a passion for the game, a passion for personal development and a passion to contribute to something as big as themselves. We have to have a pride in representing a program that has had a lot of success.”
The Redbirds are in good hands with Golz at the helm, as the former assistant coach has been the recruiting coordinator at almost all of his former schools, creating a multitude of recruiting ties along the way.
“Recruiting is going really well, I think we’ll be adding a number of players next year that will do some good things,” Golz said. “We look forward to further developing our current roster and adding in some pieces that will help us out.”
Next year, the Redbirds will only lose nine of the 65 total points scored by the players. The ’Birds will return top scorer Lauren Koehl, along with other offensive weapons such as Brianne Richards, Emily Dickman and Hannah Rodgers. ISU also returns both goalkeepers in Jessica Galason and Vanessa Niestrom.
“Our quality overall will be better next year, our depth will be better. We’ll look forward to utilizing the lessons we learned this year and moving forward to the next chapter and just getting back out there,” Golz said.
The ’Birds 2015 season is over, but preparation for 2016 has already commenced. ISU will look to regain the MVC’s top spot once again in August.