Last fall, the Slippery Rock women’s soccer team overcame every obstacle that was thrown at them, from losing the first game of the season to coming back from a 2-0 deficit against Edinboro in the final minutes of the game on Senior Day. But fast forward one year, and there is an obstacle that cannot be overcome by just the team alone and that obstacle is, of course, the one that canceled the season: COVID-19. Although COVID-19 has kept the team from being together on the field, it has not stopped the team from finding ways to remain close in a time where students cannot even be in the classroom.
“I think our team culture had a strong foundation before COVID hit, and that’s really helped them stay together and I think they had to do some things alone when they couldn’t be together, but now a majority of them are back in Slippery Rock and they find ways to stay connected. I really attest that to the strong culture they had before COVID though,” Head Coach Jessica Giegucz said.
All of the success that the team had last season can one way or another be contributed to the strong culture that the team has. That culture was really changed after their visit to Costa Rica where the team was able to get a perspective on their lives that they have never had before, and after the team came back, they came back with a new appreciation.
“[COVID will make the culture] different, but different isn’t bad. The culture they had was already strong. I think the culture has helped them learn about each other in different ways and they’ve been able to have conversations that don’t revolve around or begin with soccer, so I think it’s helped them get to know each other a lot better,” Giegucz said.
A good example of the strong culture being present is the win streaks and success each player had last season. At this time last season, the team was six games through their season and was on a five-game winning streak. That had a lot to do with the strong core that the team had that had many players returning for this season. Among that core are Rachel Edge, Jordyn Minda, and Kayla Swope who turned out to be a dominant trio last year, combining for 85 points and 10 game-winning goals.
However, it may be quite some time until those players are able to be back on the field together. And while this is a very odd time, Giegucz has tried to help her players find some light in this situation and reminded her players that they do not need to put too much pressure on themselves.
“This might be the only time in their collegiate career that they can just go out to a field and just mess around. I have to remind them that the players they were last fall and that their expectations for the players they’re going to become in spring are going to be very different,” Giegucz said.
As for the plans for a spring season, there are plans that are in the works for there to be some form of a season should the climate permit it. If there is a season, it will most likely consist of a conference-only schedule of eight games and a PSAC championship would also take place. The season was originally shortened to 14 games and then the PSAC tournament, and that season would have started on Sept.16, but there is no set date for the start of the spring season if the spring season can take place at all.
“I’m excited to just see the girls and see them interact, and I want to make sure that they have some fun and I really want to take the pressure off of them and make sure that after all this time they just have some fun,” Giegucz said. “I’m always excited to see what the new dynamic is after we have the freshman come in, so if we are able to play in the Spring, I can’t wait to see the new dynamic and I want to see the girls play without pressure.”