Feb 5, 2021 | SPORTS | By Will Taylor | Illustration by Bibi Powers
The Colorado College Women’s Soccer team is looking forward to big things in the upcoming 2021 season. While a 5-6 conference record last year leaves room for improvement, the addition of six talented freshmen will increase the competition for spots and, hopefully, improve the team’s level of play.
“As a team, this year we have a really good chance of winning the Mountain West Conference,” says Ann Louise Naito ’24. “Now more than ever, we have a chance, compared to past years. We have a really strong team— talent-wise, and if we can put it together, we have a good chance.”
The team is currently engaged in preseason activities, with the season opener taking place on March 6 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, a team the Tigers narrowly beat 3-2 in the final game of the season last year.
With identical conference records from the 2019-20 season, the Tigers hope to start the season strong with an away win against tough opposition.
“I’m looking forward to playing and winning games,” says forward Kelby Kuo ’23. “Our first game of the season will be one year since the last game we’ve played together and we are all really looking forward to it.”
The team graduated seven seniors last year, five of whom were midfielders, leaving space for new players to step in and prove themselves. Kuo says she hopes to win a Mountain West Conference Championship by assisting and scoring some goals to “contribute a lot to the team and really prove myself this year.”
In line with teams across the nation trying to salvage a season during disrupted times, the Tigers have had to adapt to the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously we want to do it safely as well. We want to make sure that nobody gets sick, because [COVID-19] is pretty scary,” says Naito. “The team that handles [COVID-19] the best, along with soccer, is probably going to be the team that wins the conference.”
Changes to the season include extra precautions while traveling, multiple COVID-19 tests each week, and mask wearing at all times outside of one’s residence.
While Kuo is excited to get back into competition, she is also looking at the broader picture.
“We are extremely lucky to be playing right now and we are soaking up every minute of it,” she says. “It’s been great to see everyone out there, finally playing together again. Playing has brought normalcy back into our lives.”
A yearlong hiatus is not ideal for any team, but the Tigers are getting back into the groove. Kuo thinks that the team has “improved a lot on playing calmly out of the back and creating more scoring opportunities from wide channels.”
The off time also means not rushing things during preseason. Naito says that preseason “is a matter of pushing the team, but not too hard to have injuries happen so close to the season starting.”
Regardless of who gets to play and who doesn’t, the bond the Tigers have formed over a short period of time is strong.
When asked to describe the team in one word, Kuo chose “family.”
Naito feels the same way.
“It has been nice to have the team, especially during [the pandemic],” she said. “I have no idea how other first-years would be meeting people. I really think the juniors and seniors have stepped up to try and bring us together as much as possible.”
In a season full of uncertainty, members of the Women’s Soccer team know that they can count on each other, no matter the circumstances.