2015 was not a good year for ISU Soccer. The Bengals won just one game during the season and finished dead last in the Big Sky. With a 0-10 record in conference play, the Bengals finished the year on a 13 game losing streak.
The preseason polls have given the Bengals no respect. They were picked to finish 11th, also known as last place.
This is partly because of last season’s results and partly because Maria Sanchez, the conference’s leading goal scorer and Mexican national player, has transferred to a different school.
Although Sanchez was traveling with the national team for the vast majority of last spring, the team has responded well to the absence of its best player.
“Obviously it is a big loss for us,” Head Coach Allison Gibson said.
Despite the loss, Gibson is optimistic about what this means for other players on the team.
Because Sanchez was so good, the team would look to her in any and all situations. With Sanchez’s departure, it opens up opportunities for other players.
“Every time we played the ball to her,” Gibson said. “Anytime they got into trouble they would look for her as an outlet.”
In her absence this spring, the Bengals were forced to play without their safety outlet and as a result, they got better.
“We made a negative into a huge positive,” Gibson said. “I’m not worried about it at all. I think our players are going to step up and play better in her absence in the sense that we will be multi-faceted instead of a one-dimensional team.”
One of the players that Gibson expects will step up is Katherine Roberts, who was out last season due to an injury.
“Having her back will be huge for us.” Gibson said. “She was a huge force for us in the spring.”
Gibson also sees Tristen Spooner and Nikolina Muto as solid midfielders.
“I think they have just done a great job of solidifying that midfield.”
Also joining the Bengals is the all-time leading goal scorer out of Utah, Michaela Dickerson. She scored 111 goals in 65 games throughout her high school career. Dickerson averaged 1.7 goals per game in high school.
“I think we have the scoring power that is more balanced across the team, which will be nice.” Said Gibson.
On a team with just two seniors, the Bengals will need young players to step up. One of those players is sophomore co-captain, Cassidy Kaumeyer.
“She wasn’t coached to lead,” Gibson said. “You could see the bonds and the chemistry with the players around her.”
With over 15 freshmen and sophomores on the team last season, Kaumeyer caught Gibson’s attention by naturally leading players that were more experienced than herself, something that is a rare sight in any sport.
“She hits the mark on every training; weight lifting, sprints, long distance, playing time, she emerged as that player for us.”
The key for ISU this season will be to get back to ISU Soccer, get back to their system and with a young group of players, Gibson is confident they can do so.
Last season, the Bengals tried to highlight Sanchez, getting the ball on her foot as much as possible. The problem with that strategy is soccer is a team sport, one player cannot win you the game, it takes an entire team.
The time is now.
It’s time for ISU to get back into its system. Time for a new attitude. It is time to win.
“With the combination of new, young, good players, developing our system and having the kids buy into it and executed it this spring, with success, they left here with a really good taste in their mouth.”
Watching the team train and play in the spring, one would not know that the Bengals only won one game last season.
According to Gibson, they are training like champions and playing like they have something to prove.
“We all had a really tough year, but if you watched us play in the spring, you would never know that,” Gibson said with a tone of confidence.
These players have shown their coach they want to start winning. From the physical output in the weight room and conditioning, to the mental concentration in the film room, this team looks poised for a bounce back year.
With this new attitude and resiliency as the team’s greatest strength, the only weakness may be its inexperience.