BURLINGTON – The UVM women’s soccer team is entering the upcoming season ready to dominate.
“Confidence is high, but still humble,” said graduate student defender, Natalie Durieux.
Last season ended in a loss to Princeton in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but the tournament berth was granted because of the teams’ first ever America East Championship.
“Now that we’ve experienced it and know that we’re not that far off [and] we’re not that far away from that level of competition,” said Durieux. “It’s very motivating to work even harder.”
It’s easy to bask in the glory of last season’s success but the Catamounts want to get to work in defending their title. “You know once you get there, anything less than that is not gonna be what you want it to be,” said head coach Kristi Huizenga, about to enter her twelfth season. “So all of our offseason and now through preseason has all been focused on just retaining that success.”
Last year these athletes were experienced as 20 of the 31 rostered were at least of junior status or older. Despite losing some to graduation, the team may have actually gotten stronger. “Last season, one big reason that contributed to our championship win was that we have such a deep team,” said graduate student midfielder, Alyssa Oviedo. “We have several games where we had substitutes coming in and making huge plays, scoring goals, assisting. So I think we just returned that depth and even with our new first year’s and transfers we’re adding to that depth.”
And because so many players are returning this year, the chemistry is already high. “I think that this team is really special,” said Durieux. “It hasn’t felt like this in a while. I think we’re just really close. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first year or a fifth year, everyone’s very comfortable on this team.”
For coach Huizenga, last year’s success is already beginning to show its importance in constructing a team for the future. “I think it definitely draws a higher level of recruit,” she said. “Recruits want that opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament, they want the opportunity to compete for a championship. So we’ve definitely seen an uptick of…the younger players who are becoming interested in the program.”
For the 26 women on this year’s roster, the season’s goal is clear. “We know we can get there,” said Durieux. “I feel like we really believe in each other and believe in ourselves. So I think our bar is set.”
“I want another championship, I want to keep making history,” said Oviedo.
The season kicks off on the road against Sacred Heart on August 18 before returning home on August 28.