For the women’s soccer team, the new turf on their field is a symbol of a new year.
A different surface, different faces and a different start – all symbols of opportunity for the team.
“One of my sophomores said it best,” head coach Tanya Vogel said. “This is a totally different place. The turf is a symbol of that. Times are changing and we’re really excited about where things are going.”
The field isn’t the only thing that looks different. The Colonials graduated 10 seniors last year, filling in the gaps on the roster with an equally large 10-member recruiting class. The youngest members of the team add legs and athleticism, Vogel said, but their presence also underlines the importance of a need for strong leadership.
The older players have returned fit, strong and mentally prepared to lead, Vogel said – all attributes she feels are vital to her team’s success.
Meanwhile, the younger players are working hard to create competition for starting spots on the roster, challenging the rest of the team to consistently present their best efforts on the field.
“We are going to start anywhere between four and six freshmen, sophomores in every game,” Vogel said, “So I think you’re going to see a lot of healthy internal competition.”
Vogel hopes competition will help bolster success, aiming to take the Colonials back to the A-10 tournament and win the championship.
Last year, GW posted a 9-9-0 record, finishing 11th of 14 in the A-10, a disappointing record that has prompted Vogel to increase her emphasis on the grittier aspects of her team’s play. Vogel’s style is to swarm the field with a strong offensive presence, and she plans to underline that focus again this year. With postseason goals on the horizon, Vogel wants to bring her team’s offensive mindset to the forefront of their play with an increased technical emphasis.
“One of the things the girls are focusing on are our offensive stats, and another one of our team goals is to out-stat the opponent,” Vogel said. “By that we mean outshoot them, out score them, but really looking at the attacking stats, corner kicks, even offsides.”
Perhaps the biggest change in the Colonials’ repertoire is happening off the field. The athletic department, under the guidance of director Patrick Nero, added Kelley Vargo, a graduate assistant working with sports medicine and focusing on nutrition, to its staff. Vargo works with the sports teams to educate them on proper eating and energy sources, bringing nutrition, sleep, strength and conditioning together to emphasize their importance in healthy living and successful play.
The women’s soccer program is learning to monitor their nutrition and sleep, Vogel said, a different lifestyle approach than what they’ve been taught in the past. She added that the new guidelines and teachings will pay dividends on the field.
“I think you’re going to find that our team has a little more durability, especially in October. It does take some change, so especially in this preseason, it’s been used to identify some areas that can be improved, and we’re starting to change.”
It’s an adjustment, for sure, but it’s one Vogel said her team is well-equipped to make. Pointing to a challenging non-conference schedule, designed to better prepare the Colonials for A-10 play, Vogel said that all of the changes off the field are creating a better product during play. Besides, she added, her team isn’t unfamiliar with change.
“Coaches talk about this all the time, our team changes every six months. So dealing with change and dealing with transition is really the norm of collegiate athletics,” Vogel said. “We’re really excited about the direction of the athletic department and looking forward to the future.”